For years it’s been a widely known fact that gum disease not only contributes to heart disease, stroke and heart attacks, but it’s one of the main causes. But, according to a new scientific statement published in an American Heart Association medical journal, all these claims are false. The statement claims that gum disease hasn’t been proven to cause atherosclerotic heart disease and stroke and that treating gum disease hasn’t outwardly been proven to prevent heart disease or stroke.
Current data does not indicate whether or not regular brushing, flossing or treatment of gum disease can cut the chances of narrowing arteries – a leading cause of heart attacks and strokes. This “narrowing” is medically referred to as atherosclerosis. While observational studies have noted associations between gum disease and diseases affecting the heart, the 500 journal articles and studies reviewed by the committee didn’t confirm any kind of causative link.
Much of the current literature on the subject is conflicting; some claim the two are directly linked, while others state that while they are linked, the chances are increased through habits like smoking and poor diet and/or lack of exercise. In fact, a long-term study would have to be done to prove if dental disease causes heart disease and stroke, or if it has just been conveniently present in some cases. Peter Lockhart, co-chair of the statement writing group and professor and chair of oral medicine at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C., claims that a long-term study probably won’t be done at any time in the near future. Therefore, it is important to tell patients what information is currently known.
For over a century, dentists and doctors have been advising their patients about the risk of heart disease associated with gum disease. While doctors have proposed that infected gums lead to systematic problems like heart disease, from bacteria that enters the blood stream during dental procedures and everyday brushing, the current scientific statement in question begs to differ.
Incidentally, Lockhart claims that individuals with heart problems usually don’t pay attention to the proven risk factors – smoking, lack of exercise, diabetes and high blood pressure. According to Lockhart, these individuals are probably less likely to pay attention to their oral health. Additionally, the American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs and World Heart Federation endorsed the statement.