Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death and disability in the United States. On average, someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds.
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or ruptures. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, so brain cells die.
According to www.stroke.org, strokes can occur for several reasons. The most common (about 88 percent of all strokes) is an Ischemic Stroke. This occurs when a blood clot obstructs the flow of blood to the brain. A ruptured blood vessel causes a hemorrhagic stroke, which prevents blood flow to the brain. A “mini stroke,” or TIA (transient ischemic attack), is caused by a temporary clot.
Ischemic stroke happens the most in people over the age of 60, with the risk increasing with each year. Certain conditions can add to one’s risk for stroke, including high blood pressure, heart disease, smoking, and diabetes. Other health conditions that make an individual more susceptible are narrowing of the arteries, an irregular heartbeat (a-fib), heart attack, abnormal heart valves, injury to blood vessels in the neck, or having previous blood clots.
For most people, the very word ‘stroke’ is pretty scary, conjuring up an image of a droopy face, muffled speech and a limp or dangling arm. Depending on which side of the brain the stroke occurs, it can cause paralysis, speech/language problems, vision problems, changes in behavioral style and memory loss. Although stroke recovery today is more successful, it remains a dreaded episode with life-altering outcomes in many instances.
Naturally, the goal is to prevent a stroke from ever occurring. There are a number of ways that adults can lessen the risk, one being good oral health.
The oral health-overall health connection has gained a growing amount of attention over the years. Recent studies (https://www.upi.com/Health_News/2020/02/14/Gum-disease-linked-to-higher-stroke-risk/6271581636809/) suggest that treating gum disease alongside other stroke risk factors could aid in stroke prevention. Although studies to-date do not prove that gum disease is a “cause” of stroke, the findings are reason to take heed when it comes to maintaining good oral health.
In one study of 265 stroke patients, researchers found that patients with gum disease had twice as many strokes due to thickening and hardening of brain arteries as patients without. Additionally, patients with gum disease were three times as likely to have a stroke involving blood vessels in the back of the brain, which controls vision, coordination and other functions.
In a separate study of over 1,100 patients who had not experienced a stroke, researchers noted that ten percent had severely blocked brain arteries. They also found that patients with gum inflammation were twice as likely to have moderately severe narrowing of brain arteries.
Prior studies have also shown an association between periodontal disease and a higher incidence of stroke risk. While a recent, U.S. based study reinforces the link between gum disease and the risk for stroke, it also shows that regular dental care may actually lower the risk for stroke. The highest rate of stroke is seen among those who developed the more advanced levels of gum inflammation.
We all want to avoid health problems, especially something with consequences as severe as stroke. That’s why we have annual physicals, periodic screenings, and tests that can catch problems at early stages so only minimal treatment is needed (hopefully). However, almost half of Americans ages 30 years and older have some level of gum disease.
Gum disease is an inflammatory disease, which occurs when oral bacterial levels go beyond what the mouth can manage (which is helped greatly by good saliva flow and thorough oral hygiene at home). In early stages, gum tissues can be puffy, sore and red. As it progresses, these symptoms can become more severe with seeing blood when brushing and persistent bad breath.
Once beneath the gum line, these bacteria eventually attack the soft and hard structures that support teeth. This includes tooth roots and bone and tissue structures that support natural teeth. In latter stages, the gums become spongy and pus pockets may form at the base of some teeth. Eventually, some teeth become loose and may require removal.
Because of its inflammatory nature, periodontal disease bacteria have been linked to a wide array of serious health conditions through past research. These include heart disease, some cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, preterm babies, arthritis and erectile dysfunction (ED). These are in addition to already-established links between gum disease and heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
This is yet another reason your regular dental checkups play a significant role in helping you avoid problems far beyond the mouth. As a Shelby Twp dentist, I have a unique understanding of how intricately the health of your mouth affects the health of your body.
If you’ve delayed having 6-month dental checkups and cleanings, call 586-739-2155 to schedule a thorough exam at our Shelby Township dental office. Or, begin with a free consultation (tap here). I’ll be happy to answer your questions and discuss treatment as well as comfort options during this time.
If it is determined that gum disease does exist, our advanced technology can greatly reduce the treatment time involved as well as enhance comfort. Much of this technology enables us to pinpoint precise points of infection so we can provide an effective treatment plan based on your unique needs.