Uncovering the Connection between Stroke and Gum Disease
In recent years, researchers have discovered that gum disease is behind many diseases today – including stroke. This discovery makes it much more important to eliminate gum disease quickly so that you can reduce your stroke risk and other serious health problems.
The Way It Works
Although the method is not fully understood, it is believed that the bacteria in your mouth that causes gum disease will get into your bloodstream. This occurs as your gums recede, which enables even more bacteria to enter your gums – and your bloodstream. An immune reaction will follow everywhere this bacterium goes.
Buildups will occur of the bacteria and inflammation in your blood vessels. They can occur anywhere in your bloodstream and may become large enough to stop the flow of blood through it. The bacteria can also cause buildups in your various organs – including in your heart and brain.
Various things can cause these buildups to break loose or become large enough to block the blood flow. Clots can close off veins in your brain – resulting in a stroke.
Other Health Problems
The buildup in your blood veins and arteries can also cause cardiovascular disease. It can build up enough to greatly restrict the flow of blood through them, or it may even completely prevent any blood from flowing through them – causing a heart attack and possibly death.
The connection between gum disease and other potentially fatal health problems extends way beyond heart attacks and stroke. A connection has also been found between the bacteria and inflammation in gum disease and other issues such as diabetes, several types of cancer, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, and many more.
About Gum Disease
The bacteria that cause gum disease are one of more than 500 different ones in your mouth. When it comes in contact with sugar and consumes it, it will produce acid. The acid is what causes cavities because it erodes the tooth enamel, and the acid also irritates the gums.
As the gums become more irritated, this starts an immune reaction in the gums. Before long, the reaction becomes an autoimmune reaction. It starts attacking not only the bacteria invading the gums, but it also attacks the gums themselves, and the ligaments that support the teeth, and the jawbone. Without gum disease treatment, it only becomes worse and spreads.
Tips for Gum Disease Prevention
Preventing gum disease is rather easy if you do not have it yet. Almost 50 percent of American adults over 30 already have periodontal disease. It remains the major cause of tooth loss in adults. With some simple lifestyle changes, most people can prevent gum disease by doing the following:
- Improve Your Oral Care
In most cases, gum disease is caused by poor care of your teeth. While gum disease is still in the early stages – gingivitis – it can usually be removed by brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing. You can know if it is still in the early stages if the only symptoms you see are red or inflamed gums, and if your gums bleed when you brush or floss them.
If your gum disease has become periodontitis, the more serious form, you will see additional symptoms. These may include:
- Receding gums
- Gums that are developing pockets at the gum line
- Pus at the gum line
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth.
Brushing twice a day is the primary way to keep plaque off your teeth. It is not necessary to scrub hard, either. This means that you can remove most of the plaque easily, and flossing will remove the plaque between your teeth.
This is a constant battle, of course, because the bacteria are always in your mouth and it multiplies fast when you eat a carb or sugar. Plaque is the film you feel on your teeth usually starting in the afternoon hours.
- Add a Mouthwash
Mouthwash can also help, but it is not a substitute for brushing and flossing. This can help dislodge food particles and reduce the bacteria.
- Rinse with Water
When it is not convenient to brush your teeth after a meal, you can rinse your mouth out with water. This will remove the sugar and some of the bacteria off of your teeth.
- Stay Hydrated
Making sure that you stay hydrated is also very important. Your saliva, when you have enough of it, will help reduce the amount the bacteria and sugar on your teeth. When there is not enough, the bacteria that cause gum disease will multiply faster and create acid faster than usual.
- Quit Smoking and Drinking
Smoking and heavy drinking of alcohol should also be stopped if you want to prevent gum disease. The nicotine from cigarettes reduces the blood flow in your gums, and this limits the nutrients your gums receive. This also weakens the immune system in your gums, which means there is much less resistance to the bacteria causing gum disease. Alcohol also raises your risk level considerably.
- Get Regular Checkups
Periodontal disease is usually painless until it becomes more serious and teeth start becoming loose. This means you could have the inflammation from it flowing in your veins and you might not even be aware of an infection in your gums. Regular dental visits can enable the dentist to spot gum disease early and help to bring a cure for it.
Preventing or treating gum disease is easier and cheaper than treating for a stroke or a heart attack. It also makes a lot more sense to reduce your risk while you have good health. Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, MS, MBA, FDSRCS, a Board Certified Periodontist, can provide the oral care you need to treat or help prevent periodontal disease. He has dental offices in the Carrollton, Cedar Hill, Mockingbird/SMU, and Grapevine, TX areas and accepts most dental health plans. For a consultation or dental checkup, you can contact his office today at 469-470-2546