Heart Health & Teeth


POSTED: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - 3:33pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - 3:33pm

American Heart Association says suspected link between gum and heart disease doesn't exist.

The idea that bad teeth lead to a bad heart has lost its bite.

It's true that bacteria from infected gums can get into the bloodstream, and for a long time, doctors suspected that circulating bacteria might lead to problems throughout the cardiovascular system, including atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

After pouring through hundreds of studies based on that suspicion a team of experts, including dentists and cardiologists, found no evidence it's true.

"We're all on the committee convinced that there's no causal link at this point in terms of the science," says dentist Dr. Peter Lockhart.

The American Heart Association has released a scientific statement detailing the committee's findings.

The link between poor gums and poor heart health seems to be circumstantial.

Both are related to diabetes, smoking and an unhealthy diet.

"I think this should be the final word," says Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Dr. David Frid.

No one thinks oral hygiene should be ignored, but perhaps this will help doctors and patients re-focus heart disease prevention efforts.

"We're seeing a lot of heart disease in younger people and that's because we've taken our focus away from the traditional factors of uh, activity, weight, diet, smoking," says Dr. Frid.

Quitting smoking, committing to exercise and consuming a diet bountiful in fruits and vegetables are all part of a healthy lifestyle that will help keep your teeth in check and heart pumping.

The American Heart Association team also looked at whether regular brushing and flossing and treating gum disease decrease the rate of heart disease and found no evidence.

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