May 7, 2019
Did you know that almost 800,000 people a year suffer a stroke? Although this is a sobering statistic, there are ways you can reduce your risk, including some that may surprise you! Research shows that good habits like seeing a downtown Boston dentist for checkups and regularly flossing are more important than ever to keep your mouth and body healthy. And since May is National Stroke Awareness Month, it’s a great time to learn about the connection between your oral health and your risk of stroke. Find out more below!
How are Your Gums Related To Your Risk of Stroke?
It’s quite common to think of the mouth as somehow separate from the rest of the body. After all, the medical and dental fields are considered separate and even have different insurance plans. In the body, however, everything is very much connected.
One common denominator of gum disease and stroke is inflammation in the blood vessels, and studies suggest that the inflammation involved in both conditions is connected. While a cause-and-effect relationship hasn’t been proven, people who had chronic infections, including gum disease, were found more likely to suffer from a stroke.
Bacteria are the source of inflammation in your gums and are also what plaque and tartar are mostly made of. It’s thought that when plaque and tartar collect under the gumline, which happens more easily in the presence of gum disease, bacteria can easily enter the bloodstream. Once there, they travel throughout the entire body, essentially “spreading” inflammation wherever they go.
In fact, gum disease has also been found to increase the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, pregnancy complications, and even certain cancers. Researchers think that inflammation (starting in the gums) is involved in these conditions as well.
How Can You Reduce Inflammation In Your Gums?
Gum inflammation is also known as gum disease and occurs in stages. Early on, you may notice bleeding, swollen or tender gums, or chronic bad breath. In advanced stages of gum disease, chewing can be painful and the teeth may become loose (this is why gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss).
By following these few simple guidelines, you can prevent or manage gum disease to reduce your risk of stroke and other diseases as well as tooth loss:
- See your dentist regularly – Checkups include annual exams to catch gum disease early. Also, having the plaque and tartar removed from under your gumline is very important for prevention, and if you’re found to have gum disease, your dentist will recommend the appropriate treatment.
- Maintain good oral hygiene habits – Your hygiene routine each day is absolutely crucial. Brush 2-3 times and floss once. Tools such as an electric toothbrush and oral irrigator can also be helpful.
- Stop smoking – Since tobacco use increases the risk of gum disease, talk to your dentist or doctor about smoking cessation aids.
- Eat a healthy diet – Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is helpful because their vitamin and mineral content reduces inflammation.
Gum disease has serious impacts on your overall health. But with a few good habits, it doesn’t have to!
About the Author
Dr. Althea Angel is a downtown Boston dentist with over 30 years of experience and a graduate of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. She’s committed to providing comprehensive dental care and knows that helping her patients prevent and manage gum disease lowers their risk of many serious diseases, including stroke. If you have any questions about your gum health, she can be reached via her website.
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