Keeping teeth and gums healthy is important for your overall health.
But experts have found no conclusive scientific evidence that gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, causes or increases the rates of cardiovascular diseases.
And treating gum disease hasn`t been proven to prevent atherosclerotic heart disease or stroke, according to a new scientific statement released by an American Heart Association expert committee -- made up of cardiologists, dentists and infectious diseases specialists.
Current data don`t indicate whether regular brushing and flossing or treatment of gum disease can cut the incidence of atherosclerosis, the narrowing of the arteries that can cause heart attacks and strokes.
Observational studies have noted associations between gum disease and cardiovascular disease, but the 500 journal articles and studies reviewed by the committee didn`t confirm a causative link.
"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, N.C.
"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," Lockhart stated.
Gum disease and cardiovascular disease both produce markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein, and share other common risk factors as well, including cigarette smoking, age and diabetes mellitus.
These common factors may help explain why diseases of the blood vessels and mouth occur in tandem. Although several studies appeared to show a stronger relationship between these diseases, in those studies researchers didn`t account for the risk factors common to both diseases.
"Much of the literature is conflicting, but if there was a strong causative link, we would likely know that by now,"Lockhart said,
A large, long-term study would be needed to prove if dental disease causes heart disease and stroke, he said.
The statement was published in Circulation, an American Heart Association journal.