Connecting the Dots Between Stroke and Gum Disease

Stroke is the No. 5 cause of death in the United States. One out of six people will suffer a stroke in his or her lifetime. It also is the leading cause of disability in the U.S.

These are startling statistics the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association have shared in observation of American Stroke Month in May. San Francisco dentist Dr. Robert Walley offers one additional fact that may surprise you: your gum health could increase your chances of suffering
a stroke.

“It may sound strange that one way to a healthier heart is through your dentist, but research is starting to lean toward that fact,” Dr. Walley says. “Numerous studies have concluded that there is a connection between gum health and heart health.”

In honor of American Stroke Month, we’re connecting the dots between your gums and your heart in hope that it inspires you to maintain routine dental exams and professional teeth cleanings with one of our registered dental hygienists.

One study has found that the presence of common oral health problems such as periodontal (gum) disease, cavities and missing teeth (which often is caused by gum disease) predicted heart disease as effectively as cholesterol levels.

A number of studies state that if you have gum disease, you are up to twice as likely to have a stroke or heart disease in your lifetime. This is a two-way street. Just as those with gum disease should be aware of their increased heart disease risk, many medical professionals believe that you should be evaluated for gum disease if you’ve already been diagnosed with heart disease, according to a 2009 Research Review published by Delta Dental.

How is it that your mouth can become a sort of window into your heart? Scientists believe inflammation holds the answer. An injury or infection triggers your body’s natural response: inflammation. C-Reactive Protein in your blood is a sign of inflammation, and CRP is high when you have gum disease. Luckily, treating your gum disease can lower your CRP level. More studies are necessary to determine if doing this can lead to a decreased risk of stroke or heart disease, and that research is underway. Some research also shows that treating gum disease helps the heart and blood vessels work better.

Dental Care to Lower Stroke Risks

We’re keeping an eye on the research in hope that scientists can prove what many dental professionals have suspected and witnessed anecdotally for years: keeping your teeth and gums healthy can keep your heart healthy.

Until then, we recommend remaining diligent in your oral care routine, because it certainly won’t hurt you.  We recommend that you brush and floss daily to maintain optimum gum health.

Call our office if your mouth shows any of the following signs of gum disease:

•  Gums that are swollen or red, or feel tender

•   Gums that bleed easily when brushing or flossing

•  Pus between your teeth and gums

•  Bad breath

•  Loose or shifting teeth

•  Changes in the way your dental appliances fit

Gum disease cannot be cured – only managed. The earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the greater success we can have in keeping your gum disease under control.

Please call our office if you would like to schedule an appointment for a comprehensive dental exam to evaluate your oral health. Until then, we invite you to learn more about stroke statistics, warning signs and risk factors by visiting the American Stroke Association’s website.