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Questioning the Gum and Heart Disease Link

Apr 20th, 2012

heart diseasePast studies have linked gum problems with heart disease and stroke. However, a committee of cardiologists, dentists and infectious disease specialists from the American Heart Association debunked this popular myth. They reviewed 500 journal articles and studies but they could not find evidence that proves gum disease affects the heart or that maintaining good oral hygiene minimizes a person’s risk of having cardiovascular disease.

“There’s a lot of confusion out there. The message sent out by some in healthcare professions that heart attack and stroke are directly linked to gum disease, can distort the facts, alarm patients and perhaps shift the focus on prevention away from well known risk factors for these diseases,” said Peter Lockhart, D.D.S., co-chair of the statement writing group and professor and chair of oral medicine at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C.

They however suggest that the two diseases share common risk factors like age, smoking and diabetes. This is why periodontal and cardiovascular diseases may occur at about the same time.

“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.

It’s also possible for mouth bacteria to enter the blood vessels when brushing or during dental procedures.

However the conclusion of this study is not acceptable to all health care professionals. Kenneth S. Kornman, DDS, PhD, editor of the Journal of Periodontology, believes that there is no proof that could establish periodontal problems as the cause for heart diseases only because there is no study that can prove it. He believes the public must not be told that gum problems can not give them heart disease because this has not been ascertained yet.

Note to consumers: Regardless of it’s connection to heart disease, gum disease is a major health concern and dentists reccomend bi-annual exams to prevent common gum diseases like gingivitis. Most dental insurance policies will cover 1-2 cleanings per year however you should contact your ny health insurance agent for the specific coverage available in your policy.


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