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Experts: No Proof Gum Disease Causes Heart Disease

New Statement by the American Heart Association Stirs Controversy
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Statement Aims to Clear up Confusion continued...

"There's no scientific evidence at this point that there's a direct connection -- that either gum disease causes atherosclerosis [hardening of the arteries] or strokes and heart attacks, or that there's any evidence at this point that by treating periodontal disease that you'll improve your [heart health] situation," Lockhart says.

Lockhart says the statement is meant to clarify what is known about the link between oral health and heart disease, and to encourage people to focus on more established heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity.

The review doesn't mean that it's OK not to take care of your gums or that gum disease doesn't need treatment, he says.

"Having infected gums on a daily basis can't be healthy. It just, at this point, hasn't been shown to cause disease [throughout the body]," Lockhart says.

"I wouldn't want people distracted nor needlessly upset by the fact that if they couldn't get dental care or it wasn't working that it was going to have a negative impact on their overall cardiovascular situation," he says.

Statement Stirs Controversy

Other experts, however, say they were confused by the new statement.

"I think it's a bit dangerous," says Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. "What they're really saying is that maybe it wasn't that poor dental hygiene is associated with heart disease; it's more that the risk factors are similar, and therefore we're seeing a connection."

But "how much does it matter?" she says, given that people still need to take care of their gums for other reasons.

And other experts said they felt the conclusions of the review were being misinterpreted.

Kenneth S. Kornman, DDS, PhD, editor of the Journal of Periodontology, said the review found that there is an independent association between heart disease and gum disease. That means that people who have one are also more likely to have the other. That's true even if they don't smoke or have diabetes, two things that are known to drive up the risk for heart and gum disease. It's not yet known why the two frequently occur together.

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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