Heart Association Severs 'Link' Between Gum Disease and Heart Disease
A new American Heart Association (AHA) statement debunks a century-old belief that untreated gum disease leads to heart disease or stroke. The AHA says no convincing evidence exists proving the tie.
The report, published in the journal Circulation, was in the works for more than three years, while experts weighed the science behind the issue. The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Periodontology agree with the new statement.
Many U.S. adults have some form of gum disease, which can range from mild swelling and redness to periodontitis, when the gums pull away from the teeth and develop pockets that get infected.
The AHA looked at medical literature on cardiovascular and gum disease from 1950 until mid-July 2011. The panel that wrote the new statement found more than 500 studies and looked closely at the most scientific ones.
The origins of the original belief stem from the similarities of gum disease, heart disease, and stroke: All three produce inflammation in the body. The conditions also share some risk factors, such as cigarette smoking, age, and diabetes, which is why they often develop in the same people.
But the AHA panel did not feel the evidence was strong enough to say that gum disease causes heart disease or stroke.
"If cause and effect is someday proven, it will probably be fairly minor," says Peter Lockhart, D.D.S., at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C.
Those with gum disease and heart disease should be aware that treatment of gum disease is not going to improve their heart problems, says Robert Myerburg, M.D., at the University of Miami School of Medicine. "Nor will treatment of your heart problems improve your gum problems. If patients have heart disease and gum disease, they have two separate problems," he says.
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.