We’ve talked before about the link between gum disease and overall health, and how an unhealthy mouth can put you at risk for serious complications like heart attack and stroke. Now a new study has confirmed that having gum disease will essentially double your risk of having a stroke.
A Community-Based Study
This new data comes from a large and long-term study on oral and heart health called the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC). In this study, a group of nearly 7000 people with teeth who had no history of strokes were assessed for gum disease. They were divided into 7 periodontal profile classes (PPCs), of increasing gum disease severity. These patients were then monitored for 15 years to see whether gum disease correlated with their stroke risk.
There were about 300 strokes among this population, and the data showed that risk generally went up with the severity of gum disease. Healthy patients had about 1.3 strokes per 1000 patient-years. The highest PPC (severe gum disease) had about 5.0 strokes per 1000 patient years. That’s a huge difference.
The study also showed that gum disease increased the risk of different types of strokes. It increased the risk of cardioembolic stroke (when clogging material passes through your heart and is sent to the brain) by 2.6 times. It also increased the risk of thrombotic stroke (when a blood clot in an artery to the brain breaks off) by 2.2 times.
And other symptoms of gum disease were also associated with increased stroke risk. For example, people with tooth loss had their stroke risk increased 3.0 times, and those with severe tooth loss had a risk 3.7 times.
The truth is that this was all considered preliminary research. The authors of this study knew that gum disease increases stroke risk, even though some doctors may still not acknowledge the link. What researchers really wanted to find out was whether regular dental care was independently associated with reduced stroke risk.
Regular Dental Visits Reduce Your Risk
To figure out whether dental visits really reduced stroke risk, researchers divided the population into two groups: those who saw their dentist at least once a year (regular dental care), and those who only went to their dentist when they had a problem.
They found that people who went to their dentist at least once a year had a 23% lower risk of stroke than those who only saw their dentist when they had a problem.
Authors of the study note that their study isn’t perfect. They don’t know enough about the people in the study to rule out other potential risks that could be at play here. They also only have the one gum disease assessment at the beginning of the study, so they don’t know for sure whether people’s gum disease might have worsened or improved, which could potentially affect the risks.
Still, they say that this study demonstrates that there is likely a strong link between getting regular dental care and having a lower risk of stroke.