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Gum disease doesn't lead to heart attack or stroke
April 19th, 2012
07:23 PM ET

Gum disease doesn't lead to heart attack or stroke

Despite what doctors have been telling patients for the past few years, having gum disease does not make us more likely to have a heart attack or stroke, according to the American Heart Association. Treating gum disease does not appear to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease either.

Cardiologists, dentists, and infectious disease specialists reviewed more than 500 studies addressing the connection between the two diseases. The results were published Wednesday in a statement by the AHA.

The connection was made years ago when experts noticed that people with gum disease tended to have more heart attacks or strokes than people in better dental health. The thinking was that the bacteria causing the infection in the gums got into the blood stream and traveled to the fatty plaques in blood vessels where they attached and helped form blood clots which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

But the experts who reviewed the numerous studies say that though people with heart disease can certainly have periodontal disease, that gum disease does not necessarily cause heart disease.

People with both conditions share many of the same risk factors or engage in the same behaviors and this may be why it was thought that there was a connection. Both conditions are tied to cigarette smoking, being overweight or obese, being diabetic and having high blood pressure.

There’s a lot of confusion out there,” 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, North Carolina. “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.”

The American Dental Association agrees with the conclusions of the AHA and says in a statement: "Just because two conditions are associated with each other does not mean that one causes the other."

While inflammation from gum disease can still damage blood vessels it's not actually causing heart attacks or strokes, researchers conclude.

To reduce your risk for gum disease, heart attack, and stroke the advice doctors have been giving for years still holds. Brush your teeth twice a day, floss daily, eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly.


soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. JM

    I've never believed that gum disease causes heart attacks or strokes. Gum disease is often caused by Sjogren's Syndrome or other autoimmune diseases. Often people with such diseases have to take drugs such as prednisone that increase their risk of heart disease and stroke.

    April 19, 2012 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Marion

    "The American Dental Association agrees with the conclusions of the AHA and says in a statement: "Just because two conditions are associated with each other does not mean that one causes the other."

    This is true of so many studies and it just makes me mad. For every study showing correlations between this or that, another comes out later refuting those conclusions. One case in point: hormone replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms causes stroke, heart attacks, etc. So far there have been studies prior and subsequent to the 2002 Women's Health Initiative study that contradict or support and then contradict again the conclusions drawn from them. Alot of these studies are flawed in their controls, and/or the conclusions drawn are simply caused by other factors not related to the findings. If you read the details of most studies on a variety of issues, you have to scratch your head and wonder how they can come to the conclusions they do. Well, you know, the researchers are being paid to conduct these studies, and they HAVE TO come up with some conclusion to justify it. Yet people take them so seriously. Another case in point that comes to mind is the number of fatal traffic accidents caused by marijuana usage. When people have accidents it is likely they were tested for drug usage and if positive for marijuana it is concluded you were "driving under the influence" of marijuana, even though marijuana can stay in your system up to 3 months. You could test positive on that day, even though you used marijuana 3 months ago. If I thought about it more, I could point out numerous other studies that draw wrong or suspect conclusions and are obviously baloney. My conclusion: take all studies with a grain of salt and not on face value and if you have the time, look into the full report to see how these studies were conducted.

    April 20, 2012 at 03:10 | Report abuse | Reply
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    April 20, 2012 at 06:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Lisa

    http://xkcd.com/552/
    Classic case of mistaking correlation for causation!

    April 20, 2012 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Steve White

    The original press release still did not rule out an association between periodontal/gum disease and cardiovascular disease. It also sounds like something an advisor panel did a fairly quick review of without new tests. This should have been released with a long term study coinciding with an attempt to overhaul what has been a widely understood ‘oral systemic connection’ for decades now. All the “observations” and studies done over the past 60 years discussing inflammation, C – reactive proteins and the linked (correction) associated bacterial infections deserved this. Regardless of what the headline states hopefully this will create a renewed focus for both diseases. There are many new long term clinical trials underway they may provide more of the questionable details. The American Academy of Periodontology still refers to a published study in 2009 that shows the strong likelihood of a connection. They still state; people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without periodontal disease. Isn’t it better to treat it as such for better overall health? If anything it is still a risk factor. Cardio/Perio organizations will most likely find more direct connections with further research. Companies like PDT, Inc. who manufactures a Queen of Hearts periodontal curette to address both diseases, should continue to do so regardless of whether or not there is a definitive connection or not. CDV is an extremely complicated disease; there may never be a clear cause and effect.

    April 20, 2012 at 11:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • beancounter

      Gum disease and heart disease strokes could be correlated solely because those who fail to seek dental care also don't seek medical care and tests.

      April 22, 2012 at 00:48 | Report abuse |
    • Talles

      Pulling a nymph tick with tweezers is IMPOSSIBLE That is how I got inctefed.It is impossible not to leave the head in. These are the size of a poppy seed for Goodness sake get hold of a proper Tire Tique or tick puller, otherwise you run a serious risk.I'm not sure about the 36 hours either, the bacteria seems to be present in the tick's saliva I followed medical advice (so called!) and used ether, tweezers and that's how I got inctefed. Please learn by my mistake!

      September 14, 2012 at 00:01 | Report abuse |
  6. Galina L.

    There are a lot of conditions associated with each other through systemic inflammation. When my health became much worse between 45 and 46, I was gaining weight despite exercising and eating self-cooked meals,and never drinking soda or eating doughnuts, and everything was getting worse – urinary tract infections, yeast infections, gums decease, migraines, asthma, eczema, PMS, I developed a kidney stone and a leg edema. When I changed my diet, ,which obviously affected the level of inflammation in my body, everything started to roll in a different direction, I even didn't have a single seasonal flue since November 2007, and didn't fill my asthma medications since then.

    April 23, 2012 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Vic

    Yet another hit on the dentists. Americans have nice smiles and teeth, but otherwise they suffer from a series of degenerative illnesses. I have also met plenty of people with poor oral health (mostly abroad) who've lived long lives.

    April 24, 2012 at 14:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Ali Baba Attaie

    In a most recent study of over 10,000 patient in Taiwan, dental cleanings treatment were clearly linked lowering risks of heart attack. by Chen et. al. in The Association of Tooth Scaling and Decreased Cardiovascular Disease: A Nationwide Population-based Study published in AJM in Apri.

    April 29, 2012 at 02:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Ali Baba Attaie

    This study was not included in the Circulation Review. Much work remains before one can discount a link between oral health and cardiovascular health.

    April 29, 2012 at 02:50 | Report abuse | Reply
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    April 30, 2012 at 02:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Charlene Shine

    If you have been told you have periodontal (gum) disease, you’re not alone. Many adults in the U.S. currently have some form of the disease. Periodontal diseases range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that results in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. In the worst cases, teeth are lost.–.*

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    June 21, 2013 at 12:14 | Report abuse | Reply
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    A new study in mice adds more weight to the link between heart disease and gum disease.
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    May 23, 2014 at 06:20 | Report abuse | Reply
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      May 23, 2014 at 06:24 | Report abuse |
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