Suffering a stroke is one of the leading causes of death among older Americans. It is estimated that in the United States, 1 person suffers a stroke every 45 seconds and 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women over the age of 45 will have a stroke. With these odds, any steps in reducing your risk of stroke can be vital, even life saving.
A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain, carrying the brain’s oxygen supply, is cut off, even if only momentarily. This occurs when the blood vessels carrying oxygenated blood are obstructed or damaged. Oxygen deprivation in the brain can result in lasting and sometimes permanent health complications including paralysis, weakness, aphasia (loss of speech, writing, or language comprehension abilities), and mental health changes.
Stroke and Periodontal Disease
Recent research links moderate to severe periodontal disease to increase risk of stroke. In 2004, the American Stroke Association published that patients with severe periodontitis are estimated to be 4.3 times more likely to suffer a stroke than those with only mild or no sign of periodontal disease.
During advanced stages of periodontitis the bacterial infection in your gums accesses your blood stream via the open wounds, or pockets, at the base of your teeth. Once in the blood stream, bacteria can cause a chain of chemical responses or systemic inflammation, potentially increasing the risk of stroke. Further research is needed to better determine the exact interaction between periodontal disease and strokes.
Remember that periodontal disease is an active infection within your body that can penetrate beyond your gums and into other systems. While this poses various risks, periodontal disease is both preventable and treatable. Proper daily brushing and flossing and regular oral examinations are easy steps you can take towards reducing your risk of stroke and improving your overall health.