Further Evidence Links Gum Disease to Stroke Risk

family dentist in Colorado Springs

You don’t need to be a family dentist in Colorado Springs to know that by brushing and flossing daily you can significantly improve the long-term health of your teeth and gums. However, you might be surprised to learn that practicing quality oral hygiene can actually make a big difference to not only your oral health but your overall health as well.

In recent years, a growing amount of research has found significant connections between our oral health and a number of chronic illnesses. Studies have discovered that individuals suffering from tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss have a significantly higher risk for developing a range of chronic conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

Now a new study has strengthened the connection between an increased risk of stroke and gum disease, showing a graded relationship between the severity of gum disease and the risk of a stroke. The study also found that regular dental care could also help to lower the risk for stroke.

Conducted by researchers at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, the study marks one of the largest examinations ever conducted on the effects of dental care, gum disease and stroke risk.

“Our results show that individuals who regularly visit the dentist can reduce their risk for stroke by half when compared to those who don’t receive regular dental care,” wrote the research team. “Our study also showed that the more severe a patient’s gum disease, the higher their risk for stroke becomes in the future.”

Gum disease, also referred to as periodontal disease, causes increased inflammation in the mouth and has the strongest association with an individual’s risk of stroke. Researchers noted that increased risk for stroke associated with gum disease was similar to that of high blood pressure – increasing a patient’s risk by two to three times.

The Link Between Gum Disease and Stroke

One relationship most closely understood by researchers is the link between gum disease and a patient’s risk of heart attack. Previous research has also shown that a connection exists between gum disease and stroke. This latest study has only helped to strengthen that connection. Researchers believe that learning more about gum disease and stroke risk could lead to new ways – such as improved oral care – of helping to reduce stroke risk.

“It appears that good dental hygiene can do more than just keep your teeth and gums healthy – it may also lower your risk of heart disease and stroke,” wrote researchers. “Our results emphasize the need for quality dental care, including a thorough home routine that includes daily brushing and flossing and regular visits to the dentist.”

The high prevalence of gum disease among adults makes the connection it shares with stroke, heart disease and diabetes especially problematic for the long-term health of the world’s population. Approximately 90 percent of the population worldwide suffers from some degree of gum disease. Here in the U.S., roughly 50 percent of the adult population 30 and older deals with periodontitis, a severe form of the disease and the leading cause of permanent tooth loss.

Study Finds a Correlation

In this latest study, researchers created seven distinct classifications for the different levels of gum disease that range from healthy (A) to severe periodontitis (G). Researchers also examined the relationship between gum disease and stroke by conducting a secondary analysis.

Researchers examined data collected from over 10,000 middle-aged participants without any previous history of stroke who participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study, which examined the different causes of stroke. Participants in the study were first recruited and enrolled in the 1980s and received regular follow-up exams over the next 15 years.

Participants were asked to describe their dental care, which was then classified as regular (those who received care more than twice a year) or as episodic (those who only visited the dentist when in pain or when needing a problem fixed).

During the 15-year follow-up period of the study, 584 participants suffered a stroke.

Results of the study found that compared with episodic dental care, participants who received regular dental care had a significantly lower risk of stroke.

Protecting Your Oral Health Means Visiting Your Family Dentist in Colorado Springs

What the result of this and other studies have made clear is that protecting our long-term health means taking our oral health more seriously. Regular dental exams and cleanings may seem unnecessary, but ultimately they play a far larger role in determining our overall health than what many may believe.

At Family Dentistry of Colorado Springs, our team is here to help protect your oral health so you can enjoy quality health overall. Don’t underestimate the need to improve the health of your smile. Contact our office today to schedule your next dental exam and cleaning.