Gum Disease and Stroke
Dental infections have also been associated with stroke. One study showed a relationship between dental infections and a bacterial/germ infection associated with cerebral infarction (stroke) in males. Another study demonstrated that previous infection is an important risk factor for stroke, even when controlled for other established risk factors of stroke, including hypertension, smoking, and alcohol use.
All tooth and gum infections are of bacterial origin. Dental procedures can result in toxic bacteria gaining access to the circulatory system (blood supply), but even chewing, in the presence of gum infection, can also provide germs access to the blood.
Bacterial infections are also known to cause changes in body chemistry that may create a predisposition to thrombosis (clotting). Chronic infections could also affect the development of atherosclerosis by the immune system’s response to infection or by the toxic mechanisms resulting from a bacterial infection.
Poor Oral Hygiene and Stroke
In a more recent study, researchers examined the relationship between stroke and chronic and recurrent infection. They found that chronic bronchial infection and poor dental status (primarily from chronic gum infection) may be associated with an increased risk for reduced blood flow to the brain. The results of this study suggest that, independent from established risk factors, symptoms of recurrent or chronic bronchitis and poor dental hygiene may be associated with the lack of blood flow to the brain.
Root canal infections that result in infections in the bone surrounding the teeth also contribute bacteria to the blood supply. Interestingly enough, these infection sites are also a factor in stroke risk. Because tooth decay is the main cause of root canal infections it is also a contributing factor, however indirectly, in stroke and heart disease.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Here again the role of gum disease and tooth decay as a contributing factor to stroke cannot be denied.