Stroke Risk linked to Gum Disease

 In Dr Marc Hughes

As we approach the end of Stroke Awareness Month we wanted to make you aware of the association between poor oral health and the increased likelihood of having a stroke.

According to researchers from the International Dental Health Foundation, “only one in six people realise that people with gum disease may have an increased risk of stroke”.

In 2004, researchers in Germany identified an increased risk of stroke for those with advanced gum disease, particularly for men and patients under the age of 60. Gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) is an inflammatory disease often caused by poor oral hygiene, which affects the hard and soft tissues that support the teeth. Warning signs to look out for include:

  • Painful mouth
  • Any changes to your ‘bite’ (how your teeth fit together when you bit down)
  • Bleeding while eating hard foods, or brushing/flossing
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Red gums that are swollen or tender
  • Receding gums
  • Mouth sores
  • Loose teeth

In time, the bacteria associated with periodontal disease can make their way below the gum line and spread toxins into the body via the bloodstream. This creates inflammation in the body. If gum disease is left untreated, deep pockets form between the gums and the teeth and the tissue of the underlying jawbone is also destroyed. Bacteria can make their way into these gaps and infect the gums, which can eventually lead to tooth loss. Researchers in 2012 confirmed that patients with periodontitis are associated with a higher risk of stroke during a study from the Attikon University Hospital in Athens, Greece.

Inflammation in the body caused by the toxins that have entered the bloodstream due to gum disease leads to hardening of the arteries. This makes it much harder for blood to flow around the body. This can create much thicker neck arteries, which means that blood struggles to flow efficiently to the brain – fundamentally, strokes occur when blood flow is disrupted, or a clot prevents oxygen from accessing the brain.

To avoid developing periodontal disease, you must at the absolute minimum include these basic steps within your oral care routine:

  1. Brush your teeth (and tongue) at least twice a day
  2. Floss – this removes food particles and plaque between the teeth and along the gum line that brushing alone may have missed.
  3. Mouthwash is useful for washing away any remaining residue and freshening the breath.
  4. Limit your intake of acidic and sugary food and drink
  5. Keep to your regular dental appointments so that we are able to spot any early signs of gum disease and tackle the issue before it becomes a greater problem for you

Look out for the warning signs of gum disease outlined earlier in this article. If any of them sound familiar to you, please get in touch and book an appointment as soon as you can.

You should act quickly if you have any concerns regarding your dental health. As we have said before, dental issues do not fix themselves, they will only worsen over time. Booking an appointment to see us as soon as possible will give us the best chance of tackling any issues at minimum discomfort to you, and before they become more severe. Our friendly team is here to help.

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