You might be surprised to hear that the state of your oral health has a lot to do with preventing a stroke. There’s a certain kind of bad oral bacteria that cause gum disease, and can travel to other parts of your body and cause harm.
A stroke is a common but dangerous medical condition that causes a lack of blood in the brain. The effects of a stroke can be long-term and life-changing. People of any age can experience a stroke, but it’s most common in adults 40 years and older.
The Heart Attack and Stroke Prevention Center lists favorable oral health among its top five factors that prevent stroke.
A growing number of studies are finding the link between certain kinds of oral bacteria and the harm they cause to your brain. For example, these bacteria can travel into your head through your bloodstream, causing brain bleeding and dementia. This sounds scary—and it certainly can be. But with good, simple oral hygiene, you can take care of your mouth and prevent a lot of other overall health issues. There are also a number of companies that provide testing for these bacteria using saliva samples.
Gum disease is incredibly common and can range anywhere from slightly tender and red gums to a mouth full of discolored, receding gums. Adults over 30 years old have a 50/50 chance of developing gum disease. But that doesn’t mean you have to accept it or live with the consequences.
You can prevent gum disease (and many other oral and systemic health problems) by:
- Brushing your teeth for two minutes, twice every day
- Flossing or cleaning between your teeth once every day
- Establishing a good relationship with your dentist and having regular appointments
- Limiting snacks between meals as well as foods high in sugar or acid
The Stroke Connection
Not all oral bacteria are bad-in fact, some are necessary for digestion and immunity-but research continues to prove some bacteria are especially harmful. Cardiovascular disease is just one condition that can be deeply affected by your oral health. Others include mental health, diabetes, pregnancy, and arthritis. There are three main links between “bad” oral bacteria and heart health:
- Cholesterol: gum disease increases your risk of developing bad cholesterol (LDL) and its buildup in blood arteries.
- Chemicals: oral bacteria can cause your blood artery walls to become thin and more vulnerable to cholesterol.
- Stickiness: oral bacteria can cause your blood artery walls to become very sticky, which attracts more plaque and cholesterol buildup.
You can see how each of these three circumstances has the potential to put your health at risk, especially in combination; they can lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). When this kind of buildup happens in your brain, blood flow slows or stops. The brain becomes starved for blood, causing stroke. Brain cells without blood can die within minutes and prove fatal – or cause lifelong health problems to stroke survivors.
The good news is that science is getting better at finding the dangerous bacteria that cause these problems. If you have signs or a diagnosis of gum disease, ask your doctor about your risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
Your Dentist is Your Partner
Dentists are medical professionals who can do a lot to save your health and even your life. If you have any concerns about your oral health, Dr. Ochsner in Onalaska can answer your questions and help you start taking better care of your overall wellness. Make an appointment at Neighborhood Smiles today!