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Is Flossing Good for Your Heart?

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"It is very difficult in my opinion to draw a causal association," Andy Teng, DDS, PhD, tells WebMD. Teng, a periodontist and an oral pathologist at the University of Western Ontario, was not involved in the study.

But Teng says that just because there isn't a causal connection, doesn't mean there isn't some other kind of association. "[Gum] disease could be an important modifier of heart disease. ... I personally believe we are looking at something that would modify the [heart] disease progress, either slow it down or exacerbate the progression."

Other experts agree. Jeffrey Ebersole, PhD, is the director of the Center for Oral Health Research at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. He tells WebMD, "This infection, in and of itself, is not enough to trip the balance, but if you superimpose upon that a number of other cardiovascular risks within a patient, that might be something that will push them off a cliff, relative to an event."

Mitchell Elkind, MD, tells WebMD, "Because [gum] disease is so prevalent and so common ... we might need a much larger study to find an association. But if there is even a small association then, extrapolated over the number of people with [gum] disease in the U.S., that could be significant way to intervene and help people." Elkind is an assistant professor of neurology at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons.

"I think we all accept that there are many different risk factors and causes for heart disease, and the more risk factors you have the more likely you are to end up with a [problem]," Elkind says. "Heart disease is such a prevalent disease, such an important process, that you wouldn't want to miss even one small contributor and that it why it is worth not throwing the baby out with the bathwater."

 

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