Heart disease and risk of stroke have long been noted as a possible side effect of not maintaining good oral health. It is on the list of possible side effects for most gum diseases and tooth problems, and there are numerous studies exploring the correlation between the two. It has been a quite well established “fact” in medical science. Up until now.
A committee appointed by the American Heart Association has convened and read over 500 articles and journal entries by medical professionals about the topic, and have concluded that there is no positive correlation between gum disease, poor oral health, and heart disease, particularly stroke. This article details their findings.
In essence, researchers decided that while bacteria can enter the bloodstream via the mouth, and oral surgery, as with any surgery, can indeed tax the heart, many of the studies reviewed made no allowance for more obvious risk factors such as smoking, age, or other major illnesses such as diabetes. Ie if a smoker has both heart and gum disease, and we know smoking can cause both heart and gum disease, it’s equally likely that both are caused by the smoking. Since gum and heart diseases share many common risk factors, there is simply too little information to claim a direct correlation between the two diseases alone.
The beauty of science lies in its ability to overwrite previously held beliefs as new evidence comes to light. This is why science talks mostly of hypotheses, and needs a lot of time to verify the hypotheses in order to elevate them into the realm of likely facts. Medical science is no exception. Indeed, as medical science relies heavily on case studies, where an otherwise clean slate is simply impossible, it is even more frequently the case that previously held theories or treatments become obsolete as we find out more and more about this fantastically complex organism, the human body.