Strokes are caused by blockage in a blood vessel (most common) or bleeding of a vessel. The studies that were conducted showing a link between strokes and periodontal issues were those strokes caused by blockages. These occur when there is a thickening of the carotid and other arteries. Deposits of calcium and cholesterol – that are in blood vessels and arteries – break off and block the blood from reaching the brain. (The deposits are often referred to as plaque deposits. This is not to be confused with periodontal plaque.)
The bacteria found in periodontal disease are the perpetrator. The protein in the bacteria is similar to that found in periodontal disease. While the bacteria are in the mouth, the body sets up a defense mechanism to attack the disease. The chemical given off by the body first attacks the periodontal disease then attacks the proteins in the blood vessels. This in turn builds up the deposits in the arteries. When the fatty substances break off the lining of the blood vessels they can travel to the brain and block the blood, causing the stroke.
There are about 800,000 strokes in the US each year, with over 140,000 deaths. It is the third leading cause of death. Strokes strike both men and women and can occur at any age.
Perio disease is a chronic infection of the soft tissue around the teeth. The gum tissue is destroyed and pockets are formed around the tooth. Symptoms include loose teeth, deep pockets, bad breath that won’t go away, painful or bleeding gums and red or swollen gums. There are no symptoms in the early stages of periodontitis. Professional dental visits are necessary to insure the disease is caught early. Periodontitis is caused by the plaque (in this case dental plaque) build up from not keeping the area around the teeth and in between teeth clean.
There are risk factors for stroke that one cannot control. These include age, gender, and family history. There are risk factors, however, that can be controlled. One factor is periodontal disease. This can be managed successfully by individuals. Although oral surgical procedures may be necessary for severe cases, most treatment requires good oral hygiene. The American Dental Association recommends brushing teeth twice a day, flossing once a day, and professional cleanings twice a year.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information who published the study showing the link between strokes and periodontal disease, reported that the thickening of the carotid arteries “are positively influenced by periodontal treatment.”
This information reinforces the belief that many in the dental profession have known for years, that there is a significant link between oral health and overall health.