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How A Toothbrush And Some Floss Can Help Prevent Stroke

The next time your dentist hands you a complimentary toothbrush after a professional cleaning, think of it as a tool for preventing heart disease. In fact, brush and floss regularly and you may be helping more than just your teeth and gums — you may be warding off increased risk of stroke.

Gum disease could even carry a higher risk of causing a stroke than diabetes, according to research presented at the 2011 International Association for Dental Research in San Diego, according to Medical News Today.

With more researchers now linking periodontal disease with heart problems, it may be time to re-evaluate how maintaining good oral health could end up being a lifesaver. That’s because severe gum disease is associated with twice the risk of onset of stroke many years later, according to researchers with the University of Buffalo, who published a study in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

In samples of more than 10,000 people between the ages of 25 and 75, health records collected over nearly 30 years showed that patients with periodontitis had a two-fold increase for cerebrovascular accident (CVA) — otherwise known as stroke — due to clogged arteries.

The findings appear to bolster results from a Japanese study from 2010 that linked tooth loss from gum disease to potential risk of cerebral stroke. That study, published in the Japanese Dental Science Review, found that patients over the age of 50 who had 24 teeth or fewer were 57 percent more likely to have a stroke than those with more than two dozen remaining teeth.

In 2005, the National Institutes of Health sponsored the Oral Infections and Vascular Disease Epidemiology Study, which found that higher levels of periodontal bacteria had a strong connection to the development of thicker carotid arteries in patients. Thicker carotid arteries are considered a cardiovascular risk factor that has been linked with stroke.

Even for people who practice good overall hygiene for other parts of their bodies, ignoring tooth and gum care can lead to the accumulation of plaque and harmful bacteria entering your bloodstream and causing inflammation. Researchers believe gum disease triggers other maladies through the following steps:

  • Bacteria begin to thrive in the mouth unless a person practice good oral hygiene
  • Irritation in the gums develop into sores or periodontal disease that gives the bacteria a direct route into the bloodstream
  • Our bodies’ immune systems fight the bacteria
  • This immune response causes our blood vessels to become inflamed
  • Inflammation in the body could lead to the hardening of the arteries or plaque buildup in the arteries, which could lead to a blood clot and subsequent stroke or heart attack