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The Surprising Link Between Gum Disease and Stroke

The Surprising Link Between Gum Disease and Stroke

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, affects about 42% of adults over age 30. It’s notorious for causing receding gums, wiggly teeth, and even adult tooth loss. 

And these oral health problems are just the tip of the iceberg. Gum disease can also increase your risk of other conditions, such as stroke. 

Take a moment as Mehrnoosh Darj, DDS, explains the surprising connection between gum disease and stroke and — most importantly — what we can do to help here at Dr. Darj Dental, in El Paso, Texas.

Defining gum disease

Gum disease is an infection of the tissues — your gums — that hold your teeth in place. It’s typically caused by poor oral hygiene. 

It progresses in two stages:

Gingivitis is the only stage of gum disease that’s reversible. Once your gum tissue recedes, it doesn’t regrow. 

How gum disease affects your body

The bacteria responsible for gum disease — most notably Porphyromonas gingivalis — aren’t isolated to your mouth. They can enter your bloodstream through your gums, which then leads to inflammation throughout your body.

This systemic inflammation is a significant factor in many chronic health conditions, including cardiovascular disease.

The link between gum disease and stroke

Several studies have demonstrated a strong association between the two. Here’s how gum disease may contribute to an increased risk of stroke:

Inflammation leads to narrowed arteries 

Chronic inflammation from gum disease can accelerate the development of atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque builds up in your arteries. This buildup can restrict blood flow and lead to a stroke, particularly ischemic stroke, where blood flow to the brain is blocked.

Bacteria can spread

Not only does bacteria cause inflammation, but it can also spread. Bacteria from infected gums can enter your bloodstream and contribute to the formation of blood clots. Depending on where the clots form, they can travel to your heart and cause a heart attack, or they can travel to your brain and cause a stroke.

It’s not just about strokes

The bacteria responsible for gum disease can also contribute to increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers in Japan found that severe periodontitis was linked to atrophy in the left hippocampus — the area in your brain connected to memory and learning. 

Protect your gums and protect your brain

The link between gum disease and stroke shouldn’t be taken lightly. A 2019 study published in Vascular Health and Risk Management found that individuals with severe gum disease were twice as likely to suffer a stroke compared to those with healthy gums.

With this statistic in mind, gum disease treatment becomes even more important. Gum disease treatment helps halt the spread of bacteria, and in doing so, helps prevent strokes related to gum disease. 

Explore your treatment options

As with many conditions, a good defense is your best option. You can prevent gum disease by maintaining impeccable oral hygiene — brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily, and using mouthwash — and scheduling routine dental exams. 

You may benefit from medicated mouthwash and a renewed commitment to your at-home oral care if you develop gingivitis. More advanced gum disease may require antibiotics, a special procedure called root scaling and planing, and medicated mouthwashes. 

If you’re concerned about your gum health, don’t wait until your gums get worse. Call Dr. Darj Dental at 915-213-3767 and prioritize your gum health. Your gums — and your brain — will thank you!

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