Gum Disease Linked to Stroke Risk

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As a Happy Valley, Oregon dentist, Dr. Suess makes an effort to educate every patient on the importance of their oral health. While it’s easy to think of brushing and flossing as only having to do with the health of our teeth and gums, how much effort we apply to our oral health greatly dictates our overall health in ways we might not ever realize.

For example, adults with gum disease may have twice the risk of suffering a stroke when compared to those with healthy gums, suggest the results of a recent study.

This latest research is not the first to find a connection between strokes as caused by blood clots and gum disease.

However, this new study does further expand on what researchers now know by demonstrating a “dose-response” relationship. A dose-response is the relationship between two factors that can be measured relative to an increased exposure.

In terms of gum disease and stroke, the dose-response becomes the more severe a case of gum disease a patient has, the higher their risk for stroke becomes.

For patients with varying levels of gum disease, their stroke risk increased directly with the severity of their disease. So people with mild, moderate, and severe gum disease had their risk of stroke increased by 1.9, 2.1, and 2.2 times, respectively.

The fact that stroke risk increased in this type of direct ratio was of special interest to researchers. Despite seeing this type of correlation, researchers where still unable to prove a cause/effect relationship between gum disease and stroke.

Understanding the Connection

As researchers continue to improve the understanding between what links our oral and overall health, they still cannot fully explain what links gum disease to stroke risk. However, they do believe that the levels of inflammation found in both the hardening of arteries and gum disease may play some type of role.

When blood vessels harden in the neck or brain, it can lead to the development of a stroke.

However, researchers are still open to other ideas about what may link these two seemingly disparate diseases. It’s possible that people who neglect their oral health are simply more likely to avoid seeking medical help or avoid taking prescribed medications.

Despite the uncertainly, researchers remain hopeful that by treating gum disease, we can also help to lower patient risk for both stroke and heart disease.

As part of their study, researchers examined data collected by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

In the data, over 6,700 adults who had never experienced a stroke were placed into groups based on their level of gum disease and then followed for a 15-year period. The majority of the participants were female (55 percent), with an average age of 62.

During the study’s 15-year follow up period, 300 strokes were recorded.

Even once they accounted for known risk factors, such as age and current health status, stroke risk was higher for those with more severe cases of gum disease.

The connection between stroke and gum disease progression was strongest for ischemic strokes. Roughly half (47 percent) were thrombotic strokes. These type of strokes occur as the result of blood clots forming in an artery of the brain. Just over 25 percent were cardioembolic strokes, which occur when a blood clot travels from the heart to the brain.

Protecting Your Health

While researchers cannot definitively say that better brushing and flossing habits will lower our risk for heart attack or stroke, the current evidence suggest that a strong correlation does exist.

When combined with improved daily oral hygiene, regular visits to see a Happy Valley, Oregon dentist offers the best option for improving the health of your teeth and gums. Considering what’s at stake when it comes to our oral health, studies like the one covered here make one thing perfectly clear – our oral health matters more than ever.

Don’t put your oral or overall health at risk. Contact our office today to schedule your next exam and cleaning with Dr. Suess, and feel more confident in your health.