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AHA denies gum disease causes heart disease

Apr 23, 2012

Medical studies and dental studies have pointed for years to the connection between gum disease and heart disease but not so fast, says the American Heart Association.  

The American Heart Association (AHA) said earlier this month that after reviewing more than 60 years of research on heart and gum disease, it is unlikely that gum disease causes heart disease.

“The message sent out by some in health care professions – that heart attack and stroke are directly linked to gum disease – can distort the facts, alarm patients and perhaps shift the focus of prevention away from well-known factors for these diseases,” said committee member Dr. Peter Lockhart, DDS, a professor of oral medicine at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“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 cardiovascular situation,” Lockhart says.

The AHA committee comprised of cardiologists, dentists and infectious diseases specialists, agrees that inflammation and oral infections can enter the bloodstream during dental procedures and tooth brushing, causing more widespread health trouble, but they disagree that heart attack and stroke are directly linked to gum disease. 

“There’s no scientific evidence at this point that there’s a direct connection,” Lockhart says.

The AHA committee announcing the findings agrees that gum disease and heart disease share many common risk factors, such as smoking, age and diabetes, and these factors probably explain why oral and blood diseases occur together. But the AHA also notes that the strong relationship between gum disease and heart disease fails to account for these common factors, the committee said.

A large, long-term study would be needed to prove whether dental disease causes heart disease and stroke, Lockhart said. Such a study isn't likely to be done in the near future, and it's most important to let patients know "what we know now, and what we don't know."

The AHA statement will be published in the journal Circulation. It was endorsed by the American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs and the World Heart Federation.

Sources: Fox News, Web MD, American Heart Association

Copyright 2012, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC

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