Study Finds Gum Disease Could Increase Stroke Risk

family dentist in Springfield

As your family dentist in Springfield, our team at McKenzie River Dental want all of our patients to enjoy the very best oral health possible. Dr. Schilt remains committed to providing patients with the information and care needed to ensure they enjoy a healthy, great looking smile for a lifetime.

As readers of our McKenzie River Dental blog know, the state of our oral health matters far more than to just our teeth and gums. Now a new study has strengthened that connection by finding evidence that furthers our understanding of the link between gum disease and stroke risk. The study found data that suggests a graded relationship exists between the severity of a patient’s gum disease and their stroke risk, according to researchers. They also discovered that regular dental care could actually help to lower a patient’s risk of stroke.

This marks one of the largest community studies ever to examine the relationship between gum disease, oral health care and stroke risk conducted by researchers in the U.S.

“Our results showed that individuals who regularly received dental care had their risk of stroke reduced by half when compared to those who did not receive regular dental care,” wrote researchers. “The study also showed that the more severe a case of periodontal disease (commonly referred to as gum disease) the higher an individual’s risk of stroke would become.”

The forms of gum disease that caused the greatest amount of inflammation – such as periodontitis – has the strongest link to stroke risk, according to researchers. The study found that gum disease could increase an individual’s risk of stroke by two to three times – the same number as high blood pressure.

The study was published online in the journal Stroke.

Gum Disease & Stroke

While researchers have had a clear understanding of the relationship between gum disease and the risk of heart disease for years, a limited amount of research had previously been done on the relationship between gum disease and stroke risk. Early research had also suggested a potential connection between these two conditions, which was only further strengthened by this latest study.

Gum disease is a chronic inflammatory condition that develops as the result of harmful oral bacteria that attacks the health of both the hard and soft tissues that work to support the foundation of our teeth. The prevalence of gum disease is high among adults around the world. Roughly half of all Americans 30 and older suffer from advanced gum disease, while about 90 percent of the world’s population having some form of the disease, according to the World Health Organization.

As part of their study, researchers classified participants into groups based on the current state of their oral health. These groups ranged from (A) healthy to (G) severe gum disease. Researchers then analyzed data collected from over 10,300 middle-aged participants with no previous history of stroke who participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. Participants for the ARIC were recruited in the 1980s and then followed with regular exams.

Participants were asked to describe their dental care routines. Participants were then classified as regular – those who received a dental exam and cleaning at least once a year) or episodic (received dental care only to repair a problem or due to discomfort).

During the 15-year follow-up period of the study, 584 participants experienced an ischemic stroke.

The results of the study found that participants placed in the episodic dental care group had twice the risk of stroke when compared to those in the regular dental care group. In relation to the severity of the disease, over 6,700 participants underwent a comprehensive dental exam, completed a questionnaire and submitted a saliva sample. Of these participants, 299 went on to experience an ischemic stroke during the study’s follow-up period.

When compared with group without gum disease, those with the disease had an increased risk of stroke that rose with the severity of the gum disease.

Protecting Your Oral Health

As this and other research continues to find surprising connections between our oral and overall health it’s become clear that it’s vital that patients receive regular dental care. Regular exams with your family dentist in Springfield provide Dr. Schilt the chance to spot the signs of gum disease early on while still easily treatable.

Don’t neglect your oral health and put your overall health at risk. Schedule your next dental appointment with our team at McKenzie River Dental today.