Are gum disease and stroke connected?
It’s important to have healthy teeth and gums for many reasons, but is there a connection to stroke? Alexandra Vezzetti, PA, Palmetto Health-USC Neurology, said there is a link.
“Roughly 25% of strokes are due to atherosclerosis, which is a ‘hardening’ of the blood vessels, in the neck and within the brain,” Vezzetti said. “Gum disease is a chronic bacterial infection that can cause inflammation, and inflammation plays a major role in the development and worsening of atherosclerosis. As atherosclerosis worsens, the blood vessels in the neck and brain become more narrowed and become blocked, causing a disruption in blood flow to parts of the brain. Gum disease has been linked to heart attacks in this same way.”
Vezzetti said it’s important to maintain good oral hygiene and visit a dentist twice a year. Signs of gum disease include:
- Bleeding when you brush your teeth
- Red or swollen gums
- Receding gums
- Loose teeth
She said it’s also important to remember the signs and symptoms of strokes. Think BE FAST:
- B – Balance off/dizzy
- E – Eyes blurred
- F – Face drooping
- A – Arm weakness
- S – Speech difficulty
- T – Time to call 911
If you are concerned that you are having a stroke, call 911 and go to the nearest emergency department as soon as possible. “Stroke treatments, including clot-busting medication and clot-retrieval, are very dependent on time,” Vezzetti said.
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