The average person may not even consider cardiovascular disease when thinking about cavities and gum disease, but your body is a system, and your oral health can have a profound effect on your total health. Your mouth contains bacteria. Those bacteria are not only associated with oral diseases but can cause health complications throughout your body, and that includes strokes.
How Can Poor Oral Health Cause a Stroke?
The National Health Service warns that research has demonstrated a link between poor oral health and not just strokes but other cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, dementia, and pregnancy complications. In a healthy person, oral bacteria generally do not get into the bloodstream, and when it does, it is quickly neutralized by the immune system. In a person with poor oral health, that bacteria may not be neutralized, and it may be present in higher quantities. This can lead to an elevation in C-reactive proteins, which can inflame blood vessels, reduce blood flow to the brain, and lead to a stroke.
Preventing Gum Disease Is the Key
There is a connection between gum disease and strokes and the other health issues mentioned above. Gum disease is characterized by elevated bacteria and more opportunities for that bacteria to get into your blood. People with gum disease tend to experience suboptimal immune system performance.
Gum disease can set in before the telltale signs manifest. If your gums are red or swollen or bleed easily when you brush, that is not normal and an indication of gingivitis. Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease, and the disease is still completely reversible at that point. Gum disease that persists, however, will eventually evolve into periodontitis. This advanced stage is much more serious and not reversible. If not managed, it can lead to tooth loss and even reach the jawbone.
The American Dental Association has identified the important steps to gum disease prevention:
- Brush twice a day: once after breakfast and again before bed
- Rinse vigorously with water after other meals and snacks
- Floss your entire mouth once every 24 hours
- Schedule proactive visits to your dentist twice a year
- Discuss any dental concerns with your dentist as soon as possible
Adhering to these steps on a consistent basis will prevent gum disease and even reverse gingivitis. While it does not guarantee that you will be stroke-free, it greatly reduces your risk.
Post-Stroke Oral Care
If you or a loved one has experienced a stroke, it is imperative to continue regular oral hygiene, and this is something that can fall by the wayside due to all of the other challenges you are facing. The journal Stroke published a study in which it found that critically ill patients were much more prone to pneumonia if regular dental hygiene was not implemented in the wake of a stroke. The European Stroke Journal published a similar study in which a link between poor oral hygiene and increased risk of pneumonia was found in patients recovering from strokes.
An old adage is particularly salient in this context: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Whether you have recently received a clean bill of health or are recovering from a stroke or other health complication, it is crucial that you take care of your teeth and gums. Post-stroke patients should alert their dentists, who can then coordinate with their medical teams to establish an oral hygiene routine.
Take a Proactive Approach to Your Health
When it comes to their health, many adults make the mistake of only seeing their dentists when there is an obvious problem. Prevention is the key to great oral health, and it will not only protect your teeth and gums but your wallet. The connection between oral health and strokes is real, and Jeffrey D. Clark, DDS, can assist you not just through routine checkups but early detection as well. Call Scottsdale Dental Excellence today at 480 585 1853 to schedule your initial appointment.