Most people are affected by some degree of gum disease. In fact, nine out of 10 people worldwide. And in general, if we're privileged enough to have regular dental care, many are trying to do something about it. At least, to keep it under control. And then we tend to forget about it. But gum disease affects more than our aesthetic. As it turns out, gum disease can play a role in our stroke risk, and that goes especially for those who have lost teeth as a result of their gum disease.
Researchers have found a clear link between gum disease and strokes. Doctors have been talking about it for years so this may not be news to some, but now, new research shows why and how the link exists. The American Stroke Association presented research at the International Stroke Conference earlier this year showing gum disease was linked to higher rates of stroke due to the hardening of large brain arteries. They also found a connection with severe artery blockages, including those that haven't caused symptoms yet. The findings of these studies suggest that preventing and treating gum disease could reduce the risk of having a stroke. It's worth noting that while the studies show a link between gum disease and stroke, they don't show that gum disease causes stroke or artery blockage because that information was outside the scope of this study but more information may be forthcoming as researchers move deeper into this work.
The studies show that even the mildest form of gum disease is a health problem. There are many degrees of gum disease associated with strokes. Gingivitis is a mild form that causes inflammation. More serious periodontal disease, known as periodontitis, can destroy the gums and more. People with severe periodontitis may face increased tooth decay and, eventually, tooth loss.One study from Sweden followed over 1600 people for 26 years. They found a clear association between gingival inflammation and stroke.Another study found that people with severe periodontal disease and tooth loss had a higher rate of stroke. The loss of teeth seems to be a significant indicator. Researchers say people who lost more teeth usually experienced more strokes. One of the biggest predictors of silent stroke, cite the researchers, is tooth loss.Silent strokes can be particularly dangerous because people don't realize they're having one. This type of stroke doesn't cause the same noticeable signs. The problem is that, over time, silent strokes, which are still blockages in the brain, may build-up over time and cause debilitating issues like dementia.
Studies also show there is a correlation between poor gum health and ischemic strokes. Ischemic strokes are those caused by blood flow interruption due to a blood clot. Researchers found that both gingivitis and mild periodontitis increased the risk of ischemic strokes. Infection Also Increases Stroke Risk
Another issue with dental problems is that they are also sometimes associated with infection. Research tells us infection increases the risk of stroke. This could be because of the body's inflammatory immune response to infection. To further complicate the matter, sometimes infection and inflammation can make the blood clot, which then can cause a stroke. When serious dental problems go untreated for a long time, we are more likely to have infection, and therefore inflammation, from unhealthy gums and teeth. This may make an ischemic stroke more likely. One key takeaway from these studies is that treating gum disease (along with other risk factors for stroke) could reduce our chances of having a stroke. Of course, it's not always possible for everyone to see the dentist regularly but most of us can use best practices such as brushing multiple times per day and flossing nightly to try to stave off gum disease or keep whatever we have at bay. The bottom line is, we have to take care of our teeth and gums for overall health because they affect much more than just our mouths.
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