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Gum disease is not linked to heart problems

Apr 19th, 2012
Staff Writer

Gum disease not linked to heart problems?Gum disease has long been associated with an increased of heart disease. But a new study throws cold water on the connection and urges consumers to ignore such claims.

Previous research has suggested that infection and inflammation in gum tissues can trigger systemic changes in the body that can ultimately infect the heart muscle. However, researchers writing in the journal Circulation said this week that the link hasn’t been proven. Nor is there any scientific evidence that treating gum disease can help prevent heart disease.

“There’s a lot of confusion out there,” said Peter Lockhart, chairman of oral medicine at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. “The message sent out by some healthcare professionals 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.”

A large, rigorous clinical trial would be needed to determine if gum disease and heart disease are linked, Lockhart said. For now, he said: “Much of the literature is conflicting. But if there was a strong causative link, we would likely know that by now.”

Consumers should not heed statements or advertisements that urge dental care in order to prevent  heart disease, heart attacks or stroke, the statement says. There are, however, proven strategies to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease – such as exercise and a healthy diet. And, experts noted, treatment of gum disease is important in its own right to preserve the teeth and oral health.