Heart Care

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.

Photo of dentist in exam room

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.

In-depth look

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.

Any impact minimal

"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.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Dental Association - Gum Disease

American Heart Association - Periodontal Disease and Atherosclerotic Vascular Disease

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research - Periodontal (Gum) Disease

June 2012

Mouth Maintenance

Keep the gleam in your grin with the following dental health basics:

  • Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Avoid foods high in sugar or starch, because they tend to stick to your teeth. Drink plenty of water every day.

  • Brush your teeth twice a day. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Many people feel brushing the tongue daily leaves the mouth more refreshed.

  • Floss at least once a day. Or, you can use an interdental cleaner, a special pick or brush you use between your teeth. Be gentle with your gums. Don't force the floss or cleaner between your teeth.

  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or earlier if it's worn out. When you buy a new toothbrush or any other dental product, look for the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance on the label.

  • Visit your dentist or dental hygienist at least once a year, but preferably every six months. Don't ignore small cavities or other mouth problems. They can become serious if left untreated.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

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