There has been a long-held belief that there is a direct link between gum disease and heart disease causing heart attack and stroke. In 2012, however, researchers from the American Heart Association reviewed 500 previous studies on the subject and found no direct evidence that heart disease is caused by gum disease.
Gum disease and heart disease do share similarities which may be why they were thought to be linked. Gum disease causes swelling in the mouth, and heart disease causes swelling as well. But inflammation in the mouth does not cause swelling throughout the rest of the body. And bacteria in the mouth does not cause heart disease either.
The previous studies that linked heart disease and gum disease were all observational population studies. This means that the actions of individuals were simply watched and recorded with no influence from researchers. In order to prove causation, researchers would have needed to perform a study comparing those with good oral hygiene with those of a control group. This type of study would ultimately be too expensive and unwieldy to perform.
Although there is no proven causation between gum disease and heart disease, the two diseases are related. The observational studies showed that people who have gum disease have similar lifestyles as those who have heart disease. This may be because of smoking or unhealthy eating habits. Individuals who are unconcerned about heart health may be unconcerned about oral health as well.
Despite there being no direct causation between heart disease and gum disease, this does not mean that one should ignore the importance of oral health. It is still important to brush and floss twice-a-day and have regular cleanings and screening with a dentist. Avoiding tobacco use and eating a healthy diet are helpful as well.
At Gallardo & Lamas Periodontics and Implant Dentistry of Miami, Florida, our periodontal specialists have extensive experience in the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call (305) 447-1447.