Gum Disease Doesn't Cause Heart Disease

No proof that gum disease leads to heart disease or stroke

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Though they share common risk factors, gum disease does not appear to cause heart disease or stroke. A new statement also reveals that treating gum disease is not proven to prevent stroke or plaque build up in the heart.

Previous observational studies have suggested a link between cardiovascular disease and periodontal disease, but a causative link was not found by the American Heart Association committee that issued the scientific statement.

"Floss daily to keep your gums healthy."

Peter Lockhart, DDS, co-chair of the statement writing group, and professor and chair of oral medicine at the Carolinas Medical Center, noted there remains a lot of confusion over the topic. He said the facts can be distorted when some healthcare workers suggest heart attack and stroke are linked to gum disease.

It also alarms patients and possibly shifts the focus on prevention away from well known risk factors for these diseases, Dr. Lockhart said.

In addition, the statement noted that data currently available does not indicate whether regular brushing and flossing, or treating gum disease can reduce the build up of plaque in arteries, which can cause heart attacks or strokes.

Before issuing the statement, the committee reviewed 500 journal articles and studies regarding the possible link between gum disease and cardiovascular disease.

A large, long-term study would be needed to prove whether dental disease causes heart attack or stroke.

Both heart disease and gum disease produce markers of inflammation, including C-reactive protein. They also share common risk factors including smoking, age and diabetes, which may explain why some individuals suffer from both conditions.

Some of the research reviewed showed a stronger relationship between gum disease and heart disease, but the investigators of those studies did not account for the common risk factors.

“Much of the literature is conflicting,” Dr. Lockhart said, “but if there was a strong causative link, we would likely know that by now.”

The American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs and World Heart Federation have endorsed the statement, which was recently published in Circulation, an American Heart Association journal.

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Review Date: 
April 13, 2012
Last Updated:
April 18, 2012