Oral health: Being careless about mouth health ‘triggers’ stroke risk – here’s how

Thomas Markle makes first public appearance since stroke

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A new survey by the mega toothbrush brand TePe found that over half of Brits polled didn’t know that oral health was linked to any long-term health conditions. Stroke is one condition, among several others that are more likely to occur if you have poor oral health, one GP explained.

“When we think of the benefits of looking after our oral health, it’s fillings and root canals which normally spring to mind, but the benefits extend much wider than your smile,” GP Doctor Sarah Jarvis said.

Poor oral health is linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and heart, she explained.

“This may be because bacteria in inflamed gums can travel to blood vessels elsewhere in the body; or because inflammation in the gum triggers damaging inflammation in the blood vessels of the heart and brain.”

Strokes, which kill roughly 38,000 Brits a year, occur when the blood supply to parts of the brain becomes restricted.

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When these areas become restricted, their oxygen supply depletes and the brain cells inevitably die.

Inflammation of the blood vessels can play a critical role in some forms of stroke, studies have explained in the past.

In some cases, inflammation weakens the blood vessel walls. When blood passes over these weakened areas, they can balloon out and form an aneurysm in the brain. If this aneurysm bursts, blood will spill out into the brain tissue. This is a haemorrhagic stroke.

Blood in inflamed vessels can also clot more easily, blocking blood flow and bringing on an ischaemic stroke.

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One recent study suggested that people with gum disease are roughly twice as likely to have a stroke because of the inflammatory effect.

The 2019 study, published in the journal Vascular Health and Risk Management, looked at over 2,000 studies about stroke and dental health to come up with a strong conclusion about the relationship.

Brits also have little knowledge that arthritis or diabetes can also be affected by poor oral health.

Only 16 percent of people who filled in the TePe survey knew that arthritis was linked to poor oral health.

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And only one in three knew that diabetes was also linked.

Gum disease is said to be directly linked to some forms of arthritis. Paul Taylor, a dentist from San Diego explained on his website that “poor oral health may actually prompt the immune system to attack the joints”.

He cited a study in the PLoS Pathogens journal that found a specific bacteria that can cause gum disease but also can cause rheumatoid arthritis and make it worse.

The main symptoms of gum disease, according to the NHS, include your gums bleeding when you brush, floss or eat hard foods. It may also cause your gums to become swollen, red or sore.

If you show early signs of gum disease, dentists are likely to recommend interdental toothbrushes. They will advise you to stop smoking if you do and send you to a hygienist.

There are a few easy ways to prevent gum disease. They’re nothing new: brush your teeth twice a day. Clean in between your teeth. Use floss. And replace your toothbrush every one to three months, states the NHS.

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