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Oral Bacteria Possibly Associated with Systemic Disease Found in Alabama Schoolchildren


Tooth decay is caused by a myriad of factors: presence of sugar, favourable conditions for bacteria growth, bacteria etc.

These factors form a complex link for tooth decay. The interplay between these factors determines if a tooth demineralizes (allowing decay to spread) or remineralizes.

A study in Alabama has found a possibly link between the bacteria in tooth decay and systemic diseases. Streptococcus mutans is frequently associated with tooth decay – it plays a role in utilizing sugar in the mouth, turning it into acid. S. mutans also releases other chemicals than allow other bacteria to adhere to the tooth surface.

“Prevalence of a recently discovered serotype of oral bacterium, with a possible link to a number of systemic diseases, was found for the first time in a small cohort of African-American schoolchildren in a southwest Alabama town, according to research being presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

Streptococcus mutans serotype k, first discovered in Japan in 2004, has been linked to a number of systemic diseases, including bacteremia, infective endocarditis and hemorrhagic stroke.

Momeni says further study is needed to determine if the S. mutans serotype k strains found in this study have other invasive qualities associated with systemic diseases. Furthermore, she adds, the prevalence of serotype k reported in this study may be conservative since only individual bacterial isolates were tested. This number could be considerably higher when more oral isolates are analyzed from each individual.

More research needs to be carried out to investigate this relationship, but it is a genuine possibility. Maybe we should not dismiss tooth decay as tooth decay only, and look at the cause and what other organs it may damage.


* Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.

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