However, the writing group did not feel the evidence is strong enough to say gum disease causes heart disease or stroke.
"So far, there is no conclusive evidence [of a cause-effect relationship]," Lockhart said. "If cause and effect is someday proven, it will probably be fairly minor," he said.
Other experts agree.
"If patients have heart disease and gum disease, they have two separate problems," said Dr. Robert Myerburg, a professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
Those with gum disease and heart disease should be aware, Myerburg said, that treatment of gum disease is not going to improve their heart problems. "Nor will treatment of your heart problems improve your gum problems."
In agreement with the new statement, too, is the American Academy of Periodontology, said Dr. Pamela McClain, a periodontist in Aurora, Colo., and president of the academy. Its members treat patients with gum disease. "The academy agrees that science doesn't support a causal relationship between periodontal disease as a direct cause of cardiovascular disease," she said.
However, she disagrees with Lockhart's statement that if a cause-effect relationship is found, it will be minor. "It's hard to predict. We may find a stronger link," she said.
"The message should be, we can't say there is proof of a causal relationship," McClain said. "We know there is definitely a link between these."
Bottom line, all experts agree, is that if you have either disease, you need treatment.
And if you have gum disease, you can't expect treatment to prevent heart disease.
To learn more about the heart, visit the World Heart Federation.
SOURCES: Peter Lockhart, D.D.S., professor and chair of oral
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