Brushing Your Teeth Can Save You From a Stroke?

by Jason 10/2/2012 8:02 AM

Does having gum disease put you at greater risk for a stroke? Would averting gum disease actually reduce your chances of having a stroke?

The link between gum disease and stroke (as well as other cardiovascular diseases) has been heavily researched for a number of years. Numerous studies have suggested associations between chronic gum infection and cardiovascular disease. Here’s what we know:

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, people with gum disease are almost twice as likely to have heart disease as those without it.

Two studies have linked the bacteria of periodontal (gum) disease to heart problems.

The first, a 2005 study in Circulation, found that older adults who had higher proportions of four types of gum disease–causing bacteria also had thicker carotid arteries, the artery supplying the head and neck. The second study, published in the Journal of Periodontology in 2006, found that people with acute coronary syndrome—which encompasses a variety of heart problems ranging from unstable angina to heart attack—had higher levels of oral bacteria.

So, how do oral bacteria affect the body? No one is sure yet.

Experts know that bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream through the gums. These same bacteria have been found clumped in artery plaques. So, do these bacteria stick to the fatty plaques in the bloodstream and directly contributing to blockages? One theory suggests so.

Other possibilities lie in the body's own defense mechanisms. The body’s natural response to infection is inflammation. So, it's possible that as these oral bacteria travel through your body, they trigger blood cells to swell. This swelling could then narrow an artery and increase the risk of clots.

Well definitive answers many not be crystal clear, but what is clear is that if you are at risk for stroke or heart disease you should take steps to slow or prevent it:

  • Lose weight if you're overweight
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Exercise most days of the week
  • Control any conditions that increase risk, such as diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure
  • And practice good oral health habits
    • brush twice daily
    • floss daily
    • visit the dentist twice a year

For more information on the association between gum disease and heart disease, click here. And for more information on good oral health habits, click here.

Add comment

  Country flag

  • Comment
  • Live preview


©Delta Dental of Missouri 2012