Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Gum Disease Causes Lies

I remember the first time I heard the theory that gum disease causes heart disease and other serious health problems, and thought that sounded like BS.  Sure, it's possible, but...it just didn't sound right.  To me, it just sounded like it belonged in the correlation without causation category, where people with one bad habit also have other bad habits.

And that simply blows the minds of a lot of puritan health workers who truly want to believe that any one bad habit can cause an infinite number of health problems, which is why we shouldn't have any bad habits.

When, in fact, it says the opposite: You've got to be doing a lot of bad things for a long time to mess yourself up.  And the issue is that people who have one bad habit are more likely to smoke cigarettes, get drunk, abuse drugs, drink soda, overeat, eat crap, be a couch potato, and all kinds of other bad things.  Conversely, the more good habits you have, the more likely you are to have other good habits.

But this only makes sense when you group people statistically, and merely having a few bad habits doesn't necessarily doom an individual's health.  Yet researchers will take this fallacy and use it to prove that alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, soda, red meat, fast food, lethargy, or whatever else they're wanting to blame death on is Evil Number 1, and insist that they've got the proof of it.  And their only attempt to isolate this Evil factor away from the other evils is a half-hearted attempted at best, and it never occurs to them that people with lots of bad habits are dragging their study down.

But this is news that the health puritans surely don't want you to hear, so even when studies confirm what I'm talking about, they don't want you to hear it.  Not because the studies are flawed, but because they think we're too stupid to handle the truth.  So they believe it's better to lie to us, in case we'll use the studies showing that alcohol can be good for you as an excuse to get drunk all the time and have all these other bad habits.  Because yeah, we're all so stupid that if we hear that a glass of wine is good for us we'll instantly grab a bottle of Jack and empty it into our stupid fat guts.

But I, perhaps in my naivete, believe that if you explain the truth to people it will show them that being healthy isn't nearly as hard as we're told, and you can still enjoy life without having to live like puritans and jog all the time.  I mean, I know people who work out regularly who are dismayed to learn that I'm ten years older than them, when I not only don't work out regularly, but I also eat fast food several times a week.  But I'm a freak of nature, so your results may vary.

No Scientific Evidence

And sure enough, I found a report at WebMD confirming my suspicions about gum disease, in an article titled Experts: No Proof Gum Disease Causes Heart Disease.  As they explain:
But after reviewing more than 60 years of research on heart and gum disease, experts say that although the two problems are clearly related, it is unlikely that gum disease causes heart disease.
"There's no scientific evidence at this point that there's a direct connection -- that either gum disease causes atherosclerosis [hardening of the arteries] or strokes and heart attacks, or that there's any evidence at this point that by treating periodontal disease that you'll improve your [heart health] situation," Lockhart says.
And finally:
"Having infected gums on a daily basis can't be healthy. It just, at this point, hasn't been shown to cause disease [throughout the body]," Lockhart says.
Looks like Doctor Biobrain's hunch was correct yet again.

And notice how cautiously worded all that was, and rightly so, as it's quite possible that there IS a link to heart disease which hasn't yet been proven.  And yet...the studies claiming this link were NOT equally cautious, but rather actively advise us to start following their advice.  And that's just not good science.

The Dangers of Truth

But some healthcare puritans don't believe we're smart enough for such truths, so it's best to keep lying to us to keep us brushing our teeth and visiting dentists.  As if we're small children who need to be scared of the boogeyman.  Here's an example of such deceit.

"I think it's a bit dangerous," says Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. "What they're really saying is that maybe it wasn't that poor dental hygiene is associated with heart disease; it's more that the risk factors are similar, and therefore we're seeing a connection." 
But "how much does it matter?" she says, given that people still need to take care of their gums for other reasons.
You know what else is dangerous?  Using bad science to lie to people, because it undermines the very nature of what science and medicine is, idiot.  I mean, if science doesn't have credibility, it's got nothing.  The purpose of research is to learn the truth; not to scare us into brushing.

We also hear that from Kenneth S. Kornman, DDS, PhD, editor of the Journal of Periodontology, who said:
"We have to be careful," Kornman says. "We don't want to say to the public, [gum disease] doesn't cause heart disease. The fact is that we don't know."
That's right.  We should keep telling people that there's a link because we don't know that there is one.  Thanks for letting us know what sort of low standards the Journal of  Periodontology has, Dr. Kornman.

And I'm sorry, but this isn't how science works.  Science is about truth, period.  And if you don't have the facts supporting your theory, you shouldn't pretend that you do.  Because no, it wouldn't be accurate to say that gum disease doesn't cause heart disease, but it would be accurate to tell people that there's no proof that it does.  And you should certainly stop telling people that, no matter how much you want it to be true.

And here's a crazy idea: Maybe if we helped educate people better without lies, they might be better informed as to what decisions to make.  Because we're not going to make everyone give up smoking, drinking, abusing drugs, overeating, or couch potatoing, but if they hear that giving up a few bad habits would help them out, they would.  I fail to see how adding brushing to the list of things they're ignoring helps anything.

Knowledge is empowerment.

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