You may attribute bad breath, plaque, and yellow teeth to poor oral health. However, yet more severe health consequences are possible, including a potential link between gum disease and the risk for stroke.
Gum disease is one of the most common oral health issues globally, with 42.7% of adults over 30 in the United States diagnosed with some form of periodontal disease.1However, there are strong connections between gum disease and the risk for stroke that is largely unknown to many gum disease sufferers.
What Is A Stroke?
A stroke interrupts blood supply circulating to certain parts of the brain, causing damage or death to brain cells. After a stroke, a person can have temporary or permanent issues related to speech, movement, cognition, and more. The most common symptoms that a stroke is occurring includes:
- Muscle weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, including the face, arm, or leg
- Difficulty understanding and producing speech
- Visual problems such as seeing double or vision loss in one eye
- Severe headache, dizziness, and trouble balancing
The Link Between Gum Disease And The Risk Of Stroke
There are various lifestyle and health factors that contribute to one’s risk of experiencing a stroke. This includes but is not limited to smoking, drinking, obesity, heart disease, and poor oral health from gum disease. Gum disease is an infection of the gums, due to excess bacteria accumulating in the mouth causing inflammation.
While it might seem like a longshot that your oral health can affect the risk of stroke, numerous studies suggest otherwise. One study found that in cases of ischemic stroke, a blockage of blood flow to the brain, which makes up 87% of stroke cases,2 patients with severe periodontal disease had a 4.3 times higher risk than those without or with mild gum disease.3
Why Does Gum Disease Increase The Risk Of Stroke?
More research is still needed to fully understand the connection between gum disease and stroke. However, a significant factor that explains their link is the increase in inflammation due to gum disease. Excess bacteria from gum disease can travel into the bloodstream, causing inflammation in other parts of the body besides just the mouth.
This added inflammation can increase the risk of developing or worsening atherosclerosis levels or plaque buildup in artery walls. And since one of the leading causes of a stroke is blockages due to atherosclerosis, it is clear that underlying gum disease plays a role in this risk. More specifically, studies have found that large artery strokes due to intracranial atherosclerosis were two times more likely for individuals with gum disease.4
Symptoms and Preventative Care For Gum Disease
With ample evidence connecting gum disease and stroke, staying on top of your oral health is vital. Additionally, learning to recognize the indicators of gum disease will allow you to take corrective action early on. In fact, mild cases of gum disease, called gingivitis, can be reversed entirely with improved oral hygiene. Doing so will prevent gingivitis from advancing to a more severe form of gum disease called periodontitis.
To protect your risk of stroke and other adverse health outcomes, keep an eye out for these signs of gum disease:
- Red and inflamed gums
- Receding gum line
- Pain and bleeding after brushing
- Loose or missing teeth
- Changes to your teeth alignment
To prevent these symptoms from occurring in the first place, it is crucial to floss and brush your teeth twice a day and work with a trusted dentist regularly to screen for signs of gum disease.
Keep Gums In Tip Top Shape With Empire Dental Care
To lower your risk for gum disease and stroke, staying on top of your regular dental cleanings with Empire Dental Care is an absolute must. To schedule your free consultation or learn about our range of dental services, contact us online or call us at 585.671.1650.