Columbia University Medical Center

Healthy mouths and healthy hearts still go together

The following statement is issued on behalf of Panos N. Papapanou, DDS, PhD, Professor and Director of the Division of Periodontics in the College of Dental Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, and Maurizio Trevisan, MD, MS, dean of the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, City College of New York. Both Drs. Papapanou and Trevisan were co-authors of the AHA Scientific Statement on Periodontal Disease and Atherosclerotic Vascular Disease published in Circulation.

News coverage about the scientific statement published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation on the relationship between gum disease and heart disease or stroke has unfortunately added to confusion about this important issue.

While the review of existing studies did not find a demonstrated cause-and-effect relationship between gum disease and cardiovascular diseases, an important conclusion in the Circulation paper is that “periodontal disease is associated with atherosclerotic vascular disease (AVD) independent of known confounders.” This means that common risk factors (smoking, obesity, diabetes, and so on) do not completely explain the association between the two conditions and that periodontal disease itself contributes to the risk for AVD.

Statements suggesting that the studies showing an association between gum disease and AVD have not “carefully accounted for other risk factors” are simply inaccurate and do not help the public to understand the available scientific evidence. Appropriate studies investigating a causal relationship between periodontitis and AVD have not yet been conducted. Therefore, we should reserve any definitive statements for presence or absence of a causal relationship until such studies become available.

We know that periodontitis contributes to systemic inflammation, so good oral health should be part of an overall healthy lifestyle.

(Editors: For more information, contact CUMC News at 212-305-3900 or email cumcnews@columbia.edu)

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