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Gum disease not proven to cause heart disease, experts say

Contrary to what had been "accepted" thinking by many, there is no conclusive evidence that gum disease causes heart attacks and strokes, or that treating gum disease will improve heart disease, according to a new scientific statement by the American Heart Association.

Gum disease is a major reason that adults lose their teeth. And in recent years, a growing number of studies have suggested that gum disease may pose other dangers to the body, too.

One theory holds that inflammation and infection that starts in the mouth can spread, causing more widespread trouble. Research has tied gum disease to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, stillbirths, and even Alzheimer's disease.

And a handful of studies, including one published in 2007 in the New England Journal of Medicine, have even shown that aggressively treating gum disease may improve some indicators of blood vessel function.

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