Flossing is no substitute for aerobics

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While there are many reasons to continue brushing and flossing your teeth, improved cardiovascular health is unlikely to be one of them, according to a new scientific statement by an American Heart Association (AHA) expert committee.

The statement, published in the AHA journal Circulation, draws from the expert committee s review of 500 journal articles and studies that, ultimately, did not confirm a causative link between gum disease (or any oral or dental condition) and cardiovascular disease. For over a century, doctors have speculated that infected gums can lead to systemic problems like heart disease: Both conditions produce inflammation, and observational studies have often associated one condition with the other. However, gum disease and cardiovascular disease share common risk factors, such as cigarette smoking, age, and type 1 diabetes, which suggests that a causal connection is far from clear.

The expert committee, composed of cardiologists, dentists, and infectious disease specialists, found no conclusive evidence for a causal link. Rather, the committee observed that individuals who are less attentive to their cardiovascular health may be similarly inattentive to their oral health.

ACSH' Dr. Gilbert Ross agrees with the committee s statement, which declares that any assertions implying a cause and effect relationship between periodontal and cardiovascular disease are unwarranted. Also in agreement with the statement are the American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs and the World Heart Federation. If there is a causative link, it s very weak, notes Dr. Ross, and we d most likely have found better evidentiary support for it by now.

ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan adds, This statement should deter anyone who hopes to ignore the real risk factors for heart disease by flossing and brushing. While taking care of your teeth and gums is important, it doesn t eliminate the risks of smoking, nor is it a reason to let cholesterol levels and blood pressure go untreated.