By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — For decades, doctors have linked gum disease to heart disease, but now an expert panel says there is no proof that one causes the other.

Nidah Barber was concerned when she first learned she had gum disease.

“It was scary, because you know, I’m like, ‘Well, I could have gingivitis and actually have a heart problem, or it could lead to something, you know, major in my health,’” said Nidah.

For years, studies have suggested that bacteria in the mouth can get into the bloodstream and cause heart problems. But a new statement from the American Heart Association says there is no proof gum disease causes heart disease or stroke.

“The data that’s available right now would suggest there’s no direct relationship there,” said Peter Lockhart, the statement author.

After reviewing hundreds of studies, researchers also say that treating gum disease, including by brushing and flossing, does not reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Experts say the same risk factors can cause both diseases, so many people who smoke or have diabetes or high blood pressure can suffer gum and heart problems.

Dentists like Salomon Maya say more research is needed, and that taking care of your mouth is still key.

“One thing that I believe in is that oral health is really an indicator of your general health,” said Dr. Maya.

Meanwhile, Nidah is trying to keep her gum disease under control.

“I floss in the car. There’s floss in my purse,” she explained.

And she sees her dentist every three months for cleanings.

An American Heart Association expert committee made up of cardiologists, dentists and infectious disease specialists published today’s statement in the journal Circulation.

Police: Man Arrested In 'Killer Clown' Home Invasion

BOCA RATON, Fla. (CBS Tampa)- A man was arrested after invading a local home while wearing a "killer clown" mask. According to the Sun-Sentinel, 39-year-old Sherard Ali now faces charges of home invasion, masked robbery and false imprisonment in relation to the July 12 incident. At around 2:55 a.m. the day of the attack, local resident Sarah Pastor was awakened by a knock at her door. When she opened it, she found a man wearing what was described as a "killer clown" mask and a black skeleton t-shirt. He allegedly had two men on either side of him, both armed with crow bars. Pastor told authorities that Ali lifted the mask long enough to warn her to leave. After she ran, the three men entered the apartment and found Jeffrey Zimmer, 56, still in bed. Zimmer is reporedly on probation for assault of an eldergly person and burglary. The paper learned that the invaders tied his arms and legs with plastic zip ties, then wrapped his head in a bed sheet before threatening to kill him. Ali and the other two men absconded with a safe that held watches, cash and credit cards amounting to over $5,000, as well as prescription medication. When Zimmer freed himself, he called the police.
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