However, experts emphasize that the keyword is may. Cardiologists and periodontists, the dentists who treat gum disease, have long debated the link between dental health and heart disease. But the issue still isn’t completely resolved.
It isn’t clear whether gum disease actually has a direct link to heart disease. ‘There are threads of evidence, but they’re not yet tied together. If it’s true that people with poor oral health have more heart attacks, it doesn’t mean the poor oral health leads to them. People with good oral hygiene may just be taking better care of themselves. In other words, people who floss and brush their teeth may also exercise regularly and follow other heart-healthy habits.
Experts do agree that there are plausible reasons why dental health and heart health may be intertwined. For example, inflammation is a common problem in both diseases. Hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, ‘has a strong component of inflammation. Much of the progression of plaque [building up in the arteries] is actually an inflammatory process.
The aim of the paper was to give cardiologists, periodontists, and other health professionals a better understanding of the links between gum disease and heart disease. But much of the information is helpful to consumers, too. The report makes these points:
Although the report was a consensus of sorts, the link is far from definitive, experts say.
At this point, there is a consensus that we are still unaware of solid science to show a direct link [between heart health and oral health] with the exception of two areas. These are:
Bonow and Low say health-conscious people should take care of oral health and heart health. ‘There are all kinds of reasons why you want people to take care of their heart health and their dental hygiene too. But it doesn’t mean taking care of one is going to prevent the other.
The joint report also made these recommendations:
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