By Dr. Doyle Williams, Chief Dental Officer
Dr. Linda Vidone, Dental Director and a practicing periodontist
You probably saw this in the news: The American Heart Association (AHA) issued a “scientific statement” that there is no conclusive evidence that periodontal disease causes or increases rates of cardiovascular illness. They came to this conclusion after a 3-year analysis of some 600 studies by an expert committee, led by a dentist and a cardiologist. The statement was endorsed by the American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs.
Wow! For decades, dentists, periodontists and researchers have been talking about a link between gum disease and heart attacks or stroke.
The AHA statement did note that “the two disorders (periodontal disease and heart disease) share a number of common risk factors, including-- cigarette smoking, age, and diabetes mellitus.”
Here’s what the American Dental Association said about this:
Although there is research showing that gum disease is associated with several other health conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, just because the two conditions are associated with each other doesn’t mean that one causes the other.
The difference is association and cause.
Here’s our take on this.
1. Both periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease are complex conditions that are influenced by multiple factors (cigarette smoking, age, and diabetes). The two diseases develop over time.
2. There is a common element to both diseases and that is inflammation.
3. Treating moderate to severe periodontal disease to the point where the clinical signs of the disease (puffiness and bleeding) are reduced also reduces indicators of inflammation in the system (like C-reactive protein, fibrinogen and white blood cells).
4. In untreated periodontal disease, certain bacteria found in pockets around diseased teeth are very similar to bacteria found in swelling in the artery wall.
5. There are studies that show if you reduce the body’s inflammatory burden, you reduce the risk of heart attack.
Cause or Association? Does it really matter?
Periodontal disease means there is unhealthy bacteria inhabiting your gum tissue. Your mouth is a gateway to the rest of your body. Doesn’t it make sense that if you control the bacteria causing inflammation in your mouth, you are healthier overall.
Be sure to point out any puffiness or bleeding in your gums to your oral health professional and your physician.
And, don’t use this study as an excuse to slack off in your home health habits. You still have to brush and floss every day.