In the ongoing debate over whether you should or shouldn’t floss, a new study is bringing the dispute back up in the news cycle. Researchers discovered that gum disease could be linked to an earlier death in women.

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Study author Michael LaMonte, in a news release from the Journal of the American Heart Association, said, "Older women may be at higher risk for death because of their periodontal condition," Healthday reported.

LaMonte's team looked at data from more than 57,000 women who were at least 55 years old. In a seven-year period, more than 3,800 died and 3,589 deaths were attributed to heart disease, reports Healthday. The researchers say that gum disease was linked to a 12 percent higher risk of death from any cause.

The researchers note that some women had poor dental health, losing all of their teeth. They also had more heart disease risk factors and went to the dentist less often. This group was 17 percent likelier to die of any cause, says Healthday.

However, the team is clear that this research doesn’t show a causal relationship, and there is not a definitive link between gum disease and risk of heart disease.

"Although this study highlights a valid point, it's not set up to prove any cause-and-effect relationship," Dr. Rachel Bond, associate director for Women's Heart Health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told Healthday. "So just because you're having more dental issues, that doesn't mean you are setting yourself up for a heart attack," she said. Bond was not involved with the study.

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The site also spoke to Dr. Ronald Burakoff, chair of dental medicine at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., who told Healthday that researchers would need to see if treating the conditions reduced death rate to determine cause and effect.

As The New York Times previously reported, studies looking at how flossing impacts tooth decay are not substantial, though many dentists still recommend doing it regularly.

“Gum inflammation progresses to periodontitis, which is bone loss, so the logic is if we can reduce gingivitis, we’ll reduce the progression to bone loss,” Dr. Sebastian G. Ciancio, the chairman of the department of periodontology at the University at Buffalo, told the newspaper.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, 47 percent of Americans have gum disease.

See Also:

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New Dental Treatment Eliminates The Need For Drilling In Certain Cavities​