Dentist Peter Lockhart -- a co-chair of the statement-writing group and professor and chair of oral medicine at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. -- said observational studies have noted associations between gum disease and cardiovascular disease.
However, the 500 journal articles and studies reviewed by the committee didn't confirm a causative link, Lockhart said.
"There's a lot of confusion out there," Lockhart said in a statement. "The message sent out by some in healthcare professions that heart attack and stroke are directly linked to gum disease, can distort the facts, alarm patients and perhaps shift the focus on prevention away from well known risk factors for these diseases."
Gum disease and cardiovascular disease both produce markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein, and share other common risk factors -- cigarette smoking, age and diabetes.
These common factors may help explain why diseases of the blood vessels and mouth occur in tandem. Although several studies appeared to show a stronger relationship between these diseases, in those studies researchers didn't account for the risk factors common to both diseases.
"Much of the literature is conflicting," Lockhart said, "but if there was a strong causative link, we would likely know that by now."
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