Is There a Link Between Your Risk for Stroke and Your Oral Health?
Reduce your risk! Good oral health can preserve your brain health!
During Stroke Awareness Month, it’s important to highlight the connection between oral health, brain health and overall health. In support of the American Stroke Association’s efforts to raise awareness about stroke throughout the month of May, the Dr. E Cosmetic and Family Dentistry team wants to share the following messages, facts and tips to help you better understand the risks for having a stroke and how maintaining good oral health can help prevent strokes from occurring to you or your loved ones.
Facts About Stroke
The scary truth is that stroke is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. and one of the main causes of long-term disability. However, the positive news is that 80% of ALL strokes are highly preventable. Knowledge is power! So, here are some important facts about stroke that everyone should be aware of:
- More than 795,000 people have a stroke each year in the U.S.
- On average, one person dies from stroke every 4 minutes
- Those 55 years and older are at a higher risk for stroke
- A stroke can damage areas of the brain that control basic functions like talking, thinking and walking
- Those with an existing chronic illness or underlying condition like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes are at a higher risk for stroke
- Stroke kills almost 130,000 of the 800,000 Americans who die of cardiovascular disease each year
- Smoking and tobacco use increase the risk of stroke occurring
Understanding the link between stroke and oral health
While many health issues can increase the occurrence of stroke, poor oral hygiene is a leading risk factor. When bacteria collects in the mouth, gum disease and infection are more likely to occur. Trouble arises when oral bacteria finds its way into the bloodstream, causing inflammation of the blood vessels. This leads to blood clotting, which can then block blood flow to the brain, resulting in a stroke or other potential health concerns such as heart disease/attack, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Oral Health Tips to Help Prevent Stroke
Since we know that good dental health reduces the risk of stroke and boosts overall health, the Dr. E Cosmetic and Family Dentistry team encourages everyone to follow these preventative tips:
- Brush twice daily using a fluoride-based toothpaste.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush gently yet thoroughly for at least two minutes
- Floss daily to remove debris that your toothbrush cannot reach — or consider using a Waterpik
- Visit your dentist at least twice annually
- Contact your dentist if you experience any warning signs, such as bleeding gums, tooth pain, etc.
Caring for your teeth after a stroke
After a stroke or any type of significant health episode, it is more important than ever to live a healthy lifestyle. This includes continuing to prioritize dental health. In some cases, motor or cognitive abilities may be impaired following a stroke. Daily activities such as eating, drinking and tooth brushing can be disrupted, impacting oral hygiene. Therefore, caregivers may need to step in to help the stroke survivor maintain their dental health. These tips can help:
- Follow a routine set by the patient — empowering them to help set the time and place to brush and floss will help enhance their comfort and cooperation
- Wrapping the toothbrush handle with tape or cushioning can help create a better gripping surface for the patient to manage their own brushing
- Using a smaller amount of toothpaste on the brush is helpful if the patient has difficulty swallowing following the stroke
- If brushing isn’t possible due to deterioration of motor skills, towel or swab the mouth with a damp cloth instead
- If flossing isn’t possible, use a tongue cleaner to remove remaining food debris
The fact is that stroke is a leading killer — yet proven preventative measures can greatly lower your health risks. By maintaining good oral health, you can help prevent gum disease while lowering your risk for stroke and other serious diseases. Visit the American Stroke Association for more vital information about stroke prevention and awareness.
Keep your dental health on track for better overall health! Contact the Dr. E Cosmetic and Family Dentistry team today to schedule your next dental exam: 480-494-2435.