Gum Disease Won’t Hurt Your Heart. Really?

The American Heart Association this week released a statement that “current scientific evidence does not establish a direct cause and effect relationship between gum disease and heart disease or stroke.”

Last week it was the American Cancer Association telling the world that dental x-rays cause brain tumors. (See last week’s blog.) And this week it’s the American Heart Association telling everyone that blood born infection in your mouth has no negative impact on your heart. How is it that the rest of medicine is such an expert on dentistry all of the sudden?

No one has ever claimed that gum disease CAUSES heart disease. The committee that put the report released this week “examined 537 peer-reviewed studies on the subject in order to develop the report.” In other words, they did not do any scientific research. They just compiled all the research that everyone else has done and summarized it. Think report for your high school biology class. Nothing new here, just a regurgitation of what we already know.

What they failed to mention is the correlation between the two. That’s different from cause and effect. In other words, periodontal disease may be a risk factor for heart disease. We may have a chicken and the egg question here.

The bottom line that patients need to understand is this: when there are bad bacteria in the mouth (periodontal disease) and there are bleeding points, the bacteria can and probably will enter the bloodstream. So the infection in the mouth is not just a mouth problem, it is a total health problem. If it weren’t, systemic antibiotics would not have an impact on periodontal disease, which we know they can.

So, to the American Heart Association we say: Thanks for nothing! By focusing on the wrong question, it makes it sound like there is no problem; like what is going on in the mouth is isolated from the rest of the body. That is a big step back.

Don’t let the “experts” get you off the track of helping your patients to total health. You don’t have to call something heart disease for it to be a problem. Bad bacteria from periodontal disease getting into the blood stream which will flow to the heart is a risk. It can’t be good no matter what you call or don’t call it!

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