The short answer is “yes,” but the long answer is a bit more complicated. Strokes affect almost 800,000 people every year in the United States. Someone has a stroke every 40 seconds, and someone dies from a stroke every four minutes. These stroke statistics should scare us!
Scientific research has found a connection between poor oral health and strokes, and we now know that you can reduce your risk for a stroke by maintaining great oral health throughout your lifetime.
The most noteworthy link between oral health and strokes is through the presence of chronic periodontal disease, also called periodontitis. Research has long shown that the risk for strokes is higher in those with chronic infectious and chronic inflammatory diseases. Periodontal disease is both infectious and inflammatory.
Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. The bacteria living in dental plaque release toxins that penetrate into the gum tissues. These toxins prompt an inflammatory response by the body.
Gum disease begins as acute inflammation, which causes noticeable redness, swelling, and bleeding in the gums. Acute inflammation is good because it notifies you of a problem. If you ignore the acute inflammation and do not seek treatment, it slowly transitions into chronic inflammation, which is bad.
Chronic inflammation is destructive in nature, and in chronic periodontal disease, the chronic inflammation destroys the gums, ligaments, and bone around the teeth.
Chronic inflammation is bad for the entire body. Studies link chronic inflammation with cardiovascular disease, including arteriosclerosis (hardened arteries), heart attacks, and strokes. Because periodontitis is a chronic inflammatory disease, it adds to this risk.
Current studies show that those with chronic, untreated periodontal disease have a risk for stroke that is three times higher than those with good oral health are. Scientific research shows the bacterial pathogens from severe periodontal disease present in the plaques in hardened arteries and in the brain! These same bacterial strains are not present in healthy mouths.
In order to combat this increased risk for strokes, you should work to achieve great oral health. In the case of severe gum disease, you must seek treatment, follow through with the recommended dental procedures, and maintain consistent follow-up care!
The first step is obtaining an accurate diagnosis of the health of your mouth. If you have not undergone an oral evaluation in the last year or more, you should schedule a visit with your dentist. If you have seen a dentist and know that you have active gum disease, you may choose to move forward with a gum specialist (periodontist).
In order to know which treatment will best manage your condition, you must have an accurate diagnosis of the health of the supportive tissues of the teeth. This means you must undergo a series of x-ray images and a full mouth evaluation of gum measurements with a dental hygienist, dentist, or periodontist.
The treatments recommended by your dentist or gum specialist aim to remove the initial cause of the disease: the bacteria! This will typically involve a deep cleaning at a minimum, and in severe cases, may include surgical treatment. It is essential to remove all bacterial buildup from the teeth to enable your body to begin the healing process.
You cannot stop the chronic inflammation as long as bacteria is present. Your first line of treatment is removal of the bacteria. If you have severe periodontitis, you may also require surgical intervention to achieve the best long-term outcome.
Your follow-up care includes two separate categories: home care and professional maintenance. At home, you must commit to great oral hygiene, removing plaque daily through good brushing and flossing routines. You will also undergo consistently scheduled maintenance visits with your dentist and dental hygienist to stay ahead of the bacterial buildup that will try to collect. With great follow-up care, we can stop gum disease from returning and keep your oral health at its best, thus maintaining a lower risk for strokes!
Call Rockland Dental Specialists today to schedule a consultation with our periodontal experts. We have helped thousands of patients lower their risk for strokes by treating and managing chronic periodontal disease. We love helping our patients achieve optimal overall health! Call us at (845) 259-2500 or complete our online contact form today!