oral hygiene

What is the connection between oral health and strokes? | 3 min read

Poor oral hygiene is one of the main risk factors associated with higher risks of strokes. It is because oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cause inflammation of the blood vessels. This inflammation can lead to blood clots, which can block blood flow to the brain and cause a stroke.

A stroke is a life-threatening condition when part of the brain doesn’t have enough blood flow. This most commonly occurs because of a blocked artery or bleeding in the brain. Without a steady supply of blood, the brain cells in that area start to die from a lack of oxygen.

What are the symptoms of stroke?

  • Numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side.
  • Confusion or trouble understanding other people.
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Trouble seeing with one or both eyes.
  • Difficulty in walking or staying balanced or coordinated.
  • Dizziness
  • Severe headache that comes on for no reason

Gum disease such as gingivitis may cause a stroke; gingivitis is a common and mild form of gum disease (periodontal disease) that causes irritation, redness, and swelling (inflammation) of your gingiva, the part of your gum around the base of your teeth. 

The most common cause of gingivitis is poor oral hygiene which encourages plaque to form on teeth, causing inflammation of the surrounding gum tissues.

What causes gingivitis?

  • Plaque forms on your teeth. Plaque is an invisible, sticky film composed mainly of bacteria that forms on the teeth when starches and sugars in food interact with bacteria usually found in the mouth. Plaque requires daily removal because it re-forms quickly.
  • Plaque turns into tartar. Plaque that stays on the teeth can harden under the gumline into tartar (calculus), which collects bacteria. Tartar makes plaque more difficult to remove, creates a protective shield for bacteria, and causes irritation along the gumline. 
  • Gingiva becomes inflamed (gingivitis). The longer plaque and tartar remain on the teeth, the more they irritate the gingiva, causing inflammation. In time, the gums become swollen and bleed easily. Tooth decay (dental caries) also may result. If not treated, gingivitis can result in a stroke.

Gingivitis is common, and anyone can develop it. However, for many people, gingivitis is a mild and reversible issue. Sometimes, it is painless and goes unnoticed. 

What factors can increase the risk of gingivitis?

  • Poor oral care habits.
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco.
  • Older age.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Poor nutrition, including vitamin C deficiency.
  • Dental restorations that don’t fit properly or crooked teeth that are difficult to clean.
  • Conditions that decrease immunity, including leukaemia, HIV/AIDS, or cancer treatment.
  • Certain drugs, such as phenytoin for epileptic seizures and some calcium channel blockers used for angina, high blood pressure and other conditions.
  • Hormonal changes, such as those related to pregnancy, menstrual cycle, or the use of birth control pills.
  • Genetics.
  • Medical conditions such as certain viral and fungal infections.

How can gum disease be prevented?

Proper and consistent oral hygiene can prevent gum disease. It includes:

  • visiting the dentist regularly
  • brushing your teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste
  • flossing your teeth every day
When to consult a dentist?

Consult a  dentist if you have swollen and bleeding gums and if you think you might have gum disease, as it can be reversed at early stages.


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