Stroke Awareness Month Brings Attention to the Oral/Heart Health Connection

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — May is Stroke Awareness Month, and you might wonder what that has to do with a San Francisco dental practice. The answer: a lot.

Scientific research continues to uncover connections between a healthy mouth and a healthy body.

Numerous studies have shown that gum disease is associated with heart disease and stroke, according to the American Academy of Periodontology . One study that investigated the causal relationship of oral infection as a risk factor for stroke found that people who had received a diagnosis of acute cerebrovascular ischemia were found to be more likely to have an oral infection, when compared to those in the control group.

For these reasons and others, Dr. Robert Walley spends time educating those who visit our office on the importance of routine dental cleanings and periodontal cleanings when necessary – not just during Stroke Awareness Month, but all year long.

First, here’s some information about stroke. More than 500,000 Americans suffer from strokes each year, and stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., according to information posted on the Cleveland Clinic website. A stroke happens when the blood supply is cut off from part of the brain. When this happens, the brain loses its supply of oxygen and nutrients. A few minutes of this deprivation causes the brain to begin to die. Survival and recovery chances improve when treatment begins within the first few hours of stroke warning signs.

Now follow along as we connect the dots between oral health and stroke.

Eating Food Creates Plaque

It’s unavoidable. Plaque is that sticky film of bacteria that forms on your teeth, and it winds up there as a result of eating foods that contain sugars and starches. It also can develop on your teeth’s roots below the gums and eat away at the bone that supports your teeth.

Examples of foods that cause this include candy, milk and soft drinks. The bacteria already present in your mouth love to dine on these foods. The bacteria produce acids, which eat away at your tooth enamel and can usher in tooth decay.

Plaque Promotes Gum Disease

Plaque that is left to build up on your teeth and their roots can cause gums to become inflamed and infected.  The human mouth is a major site of chronic inflammation and infection because of plaque. Here’s an interesting fact: the same plaque that forms on your teeth is what causes heart attacks.

Gum Disease Leads to Systemic Diseases

Gum disease doesn’t go away on it’s own; it only gets worse with time. Gum disease causes jaw bone loss and over time, you likely will lose your teeth. A study conducted by the Boston University School of Dental Medicine in 2006 stated that people who were missing some or all of their teeth because of gum disease were at increased risk for suffering a stroke, according to the Massachusetts Dental Society.

Fight Back with Good Oral Hygiene

Maintaining a good oral hygiene routine that includes brushing your teeth after meals and flossing daily can actually prevent gum disease and treat mild to moderate gum disease in most cases. Combine that with regular checkups and professional teeth cleanings, and you have a good plan of attack for keeping gum disease – and heart disease and stroke – at bay.

When you visit Dr. Walley for your checkups and cleanings, he will inspect your gums and determine if regular cleanings are sufficient, or if you would benefit from more in-depth periodontal cleanings.

Please call our office if you would like to schedule a consultation and gather more information about the oral health/whole body health connection.