Stroke and Oral Health: Is There A Connection?
Oral health has recently been linked to the well-being of the rest of the body. And that makes total sense. The mouth is the first port of the whole digestive system and as we all know, death starts in the stomach.
Oral health has been linked to gut health, dementia, heart defects and now even stroke.
What is a stroke?
Someone who is having a stroke will show signs like a sagging face (usually only one side), arm weakness, or slurred or impaired speech. There are other, less common symptoms too, so get to a doctor if you notice anything strange happening to your body. A stroke is a medical emergency.
People of all ages are at risk of having a stroke, depending on several factors. A stroke happens when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. It can also occur when a blood clot stops oxygen from getting to the brain.
Strokes aren’t always fatal but often leave the sufferer with permanent brain damage, which can affect all aspects of the body. Some people who have suffered a stroke do not regain the use of their limbs, or are partially disabled, depending on its severity, the time between the stroke and medical intervention and aftercare and rehabilitation.
The connection between stroke and gum disease
The mouth is full of germs. Loads of different bacteria, good and bad, live in the mouth. The same is true of the intestines and the gut. When you have gum disease, the harmful bacteria overpower the good bacteria, and this wreaks havoc on the whole body.
The primary link between gum disease and stroke is inflammation. The abundance of bacteria associated with gum disease is caused by an infection of the mouth, explains Perfect Teeth. If your bacterial infection gets into the bloodstream, it can cause inflammation so that the risk of blood clots increases.
Alexandra Vezzetti, PA, Palmetto Health-USC Neurology, says in an article for Prisma Health that: “Roughly 25% of strokes are owing to atherosclerosis, which is a ‘hardening’ of the blood vessels in the neck and within the brain. Gum disease is a chronic bacterial infection that can cause inflammation, and inflammation plays a significant role in the development and worsening of atherosclerosis.”
She continues that as atherosclerosis gets worse, the blood vessels in the neck and brain become more narrowed. This eventually causes a blockage, and in turn a disruption in the blood flow to parts of the brain. Gum disease has been linked to heart attacks in this same way.
How to keep your mouth disease-free
It is essential to have a daily oral hygiene routine. Cleaning your mouth does not have to be expensive, either. Invest in a good quality fluoride toothpaste, as well as some good old floss and an antibacterial mouthwash. It is advisable that you clean your teeth morning and night. If possible, have a travel-sized mouthwash in your bag for when you are on the go between meals.
When brushing your teeth, brush lightly. The tips of the bristles will remove the plaque, so pressing hard defeats the purpose. Also, if you aren’t gentle, you can injure the gum which leaves the open wound susceptible to infection.
When brushed in the right way, toothpaste will help you remove bacteria and plaque that live on your teeth, explains VKL. Fluoride toothpaste also contains antibacterial ingredients. This decreases the risk of infection of the gums and softer tissues in the mouth.
The reason your teeth need fluoride is that this chemical helps to increase resistance to decay as well as other teeth disorders, in addition to its known benefits to oral hygiene.
Anti-plaque mouthwash inhibits plaque accumulation, which helps to prevent gingivitis. Active ingredients present in antiseptic mouthwash are, among others, Thymol, Triclosan, Cetylpyridinium Chloride and Chlorhexidine.
You can also use salt water as an alternative to store-bought mouthwash. Saltwater doesn’t only clean the mouth of any residue but also kills any germs. Salt has natural antibacterial properties. Gargling a saltwater solution has long been known to aid in the treatment of many oral hygiene issues, including bad breath, swollen gums and plaque build-up.
Many people who suffer from swollen, tender gums also complain of loose teeth. After rinsing with a saltwater solution of one cup of warm water to one teaspoon of sea salt, many report tighter gums and a firmer overall mouthfeel.
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Adults and children need to visit the dentist at least twice a year, and these dental maintenance appointments can start to add up. Dental insurance will cover you for any additional treatments such as crowns, root canals or fillings, whether they are done at the dentist, or specialist practice. Usually, a dentist will refer you to a specialist, if needed. If you need to find an Affinity Dental-approved dentist in your area, click here.