The links between gum disease and heart attacks

An interesting article appeared in today's Telegraph newspaper, and it was also on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, looking at the links between brushing your teeth and heart conditions. Here is the BSP's take on this...

"There is robust evidence that poor gum health increases the risk of certain forms of heart disease, and this is most likely due to the fact that people with severe gum disease get bacteria entering their blood stream from their inflamed gums. Those bacteria can activate the liver to produce C-reactive protein and also white blood cells to release various chemicals that drive inflammation within blood vessels.

However, to robustly demonstrate that removing plaque by better brushing may prevent a heart attack is very difficult. This study is interesting, but small and preliminary as the authors themselves acknowledge and it does not measure heart attacks – it measures a “surrogate” of inflammation that is associated with increased risk of heart disease. These are very different things.

So whilst it is clear that improving oral hygiene is very important for general as well as oral health, we should be careful not to make claims from this study that better tooth brushing may prevent a heart attack….that is not what this data shows and is not what the authors conclude!"

Prof Iain Chapple

Iain Chapple is Professor and Head of Periodontology within the School of Dentistry in the Institute of Clinical Sciences, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, the University of Birmingham. Iain is also honorary Consultant in Restorative Dentistry with Birmingham Community Health Trust and has honorary consultant contracts with University Hospital Birmingham Foundation Trust and Birmingham Children’s Trust.

Further reading:

Evidence based information

Full Telegraph article