Are Stroke and Oral Health Related?

Regular visits to your dentist in Fairbanks are essential for having good oral health. Good oral hygeine is important for you to keep a healthy set of teeth for eating, smiling, and speaking. But many people are surprised to learn that good oral health can do much more than just keep your teeth and gums healthy; it can also help reduce the risk of other major health problems, such as stroke and heart disease. Here’s what you need to know about the relationship between these diseases and oral health.

Man Having Chest Pains Type of Strokes

One thing to understand is that there are two main types of strokes. Hemorrhagic strokes are less common and occur when an artery in the brain leaks or ruptures. Ischemic strokes are far more prevalent and occur when an artery that supplies blood to the brain gets blocked by a clot. A common cause of this blockage is the bacteria Streptococcus mutans. This bacterium doesn’t live in all human mouths; however, it’s been found in about a third of ischemic stroke victims.

Gum Disease

Gum disease occurs when there’s too much bacteria in the mouth, which causes some physical problems, including swollen and red gums. As gum disease progresses, it can actually cause the gums to start pulling away from the teeth, leaving pockets of bacteria and leading to eventual tooth loss. The inflammation can become very serious, and infections are more common as well. Gum disease typically occurs in those with poor dental hygiene, those who infrequently or ineffectively and rarely visit a dentist for exams and treatment.

Older Woman with Dentist Infections and Stroke

Infections in general have been found to increase the risk of stroke. It’s thought that this occurs because the immune system has an inflammatory response to infection, which can make the blood clot more easily. Inflammation and infection in the gums that’s left without treatment for long greatly increases the chance of an ischemic stroke occurring. Another way to explain the relationship between these two is how Streptococcus mutans enters the blood. When the gums become inflamed, they bleed and create a way for the bacteria to get into the blood. Once it’s in the blood, the bacteria travels to the heart and brain, which is what can cause clotting and eventual stroke. In a similar manner, a decaying tooth can allow dangerous bacteria to enter the bloodstream and increase the chances of a stroke.

Avoiding Gum Disease

Proper oral health is important for everyone, regardless of whether or not they’ve suffered from a stroke, and regardless of whether or not they carry the S. mutans bacteria. Good oral hygiene includes brushing teeth twice a day and flossing every night. It’s also imperative that you see a dentist at least two times a year if your teeth and gums are in good condition. This exam is essential for indentifying the early stages of gum disease and any other decay or problems. If you’re already dealing with gum disease, it’s vital that you visit your dentist more frequently, as directed. Even if you haven’t kept up with good oral hygiene, there are treatments the dentist can provide that can help reverse gum disease and get your mouth in better condition. Deep cleaning is one of these treatments that might be necessary if oral hygiene has been neglected.


To schedule your next exam with one of our Fairbanks dentists, contact North Pole Dental Workshop today. Call (907) 490-4650.