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Gums Not Contributor To Cardiovascular Risk

04/20/2012 12:44 PM ET

Dirty gums can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, at least that’s what they thought. The American Heart Association (AHA) is now saying that the conclusion of such cardiovascular link is “seriously flawed.” In what is being called a rare “scientific statement,” the AHA conducted new research and found no link or any evidence to support the original theory.

The AHA also stated that regular brushing and flossing, though important in reducing the chance of gum disease, does not lower the risk of such heart attacks or strokes. This is an interesting relegation because dentists have always made the link. However, one physician said that if the link was true, most people, if not all, would have heart problems today.

“There is a lot of confusion and misinformation, with many in dentistry and cardiology developing a strong opinion that there was a connection,” said Peter Lockhart, professor and chair of oral medicine at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C., who co-chaired the expert panel reporting on the new research. “That’s a distortion of the facts. The scientific evidence points in the other direction.”

Lockhart added, “If there were a strong causal link between atherosclerosis and periodontal disease, or if atherosclerosis could be cleared up by treating periodontal disease, we’d know it by now.”

Before the new research, it was believed that people with disease of the gums are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease, due to oral bacteria entering the blood stream and affecting the heart by helping to contribute to plaque build-up in arteries.

American Academy of Periodontology President Pamela McClain, a periodontist in Aurora, Colorado, agreed that research has “not been able to say that periodontal disease causes cardiovascular disease.” But she still believes it “is a risk factor, and observational studies have supported an association but not a causal one.”


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