Study Finds Cavities Increase Stroke Risk

dental practice in SW Portland

At our dental practice in South Portland, Dr. Beck works to educate his patients on the importance of maintaining a healthy smile. As we’ve covered in our blog, decades worth of research has found that individuals who experience poor oral health have a significantly higher risk for developing a range of chronic illnesses that include heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Now a new study suggests that cavities could significantly increase an individual’s risk of suffering a life-threatening stroke from bleeding in the brain.

Earlier research has found connections between gum disease and stroke, but little study has been dedicated to looking at the role cavities may play in determining overall health. As part of this recent study, researchers specifically examined the potential relationship between cavities and intracerebral stroke, which occurs when an artery in the brain ruptures.

The results of the study were recently presented at the American Stroke Association’s virtual International Stroke Conference.

Cavities Now a Further Cause for Concern

In the study, researchers examined data from over 6,500 patients who had no history of stroke, and then proceeded to follow those patients over a 30-year period. For the first 15 years, individuals that developed cavities slightly increased their risk for a stroke stemming from a brain bleed. However, that risk increased dramatically over the final 15 years of the study.

During the second half of the study, patients with cavities increased their risk of a stroke from brain bleed by 4.5 times when compared to individuals with no cavities. This data remained true even after researchers accounted for an individual’s age, weight, race, and blood pressure.

Researchers believe this study marks one of the first times where the relationship between cavities and stroke has been studied in people. Even though brain bleeds account for only 10 to 20 percent of all strokes, they have a far higher mortality rate when compared to ischemic strokes, which develop when blood flow becomes blocked in an artery.

While doctors have a variety of treatment options when dealing with ischemic strokes, they are far more limited when providing care for patients with brain bleeds. By further understanding the relationship cavities play in helping to develop these types of strokes, researchers hope to devise better treatment options.

In their presentation at the International Stroke Conference, researchers highlighted between 20 to 30 different types of bacteria that can cause gum disease. However, cavities are only caused by one type of bacteria, Streptococcus mutans. Research with animals has shown that this type of bacteria is linked with bleeding in the brain.

Even though Streptococcus mutans seems a likely culprit behind what connects cavities and stroke risk, researchers say that more data is needed before any cause and effect relationship can be established. However, if this connection proves correct, researchers believe stroke risk could be reduced in patients by first treating any existing cavities.

Quality Oral Health Starts at Our Dental Practice in South Portland

If cavities can elevate a patient’s risk for suffering a stroke, then preventing cavities offers an effective solution for reducing stroke risk.

As Dr. Beck tells all of his patients, quality oral health starts with three simple steps:

  • Brush at least twice a day
  • Floss daily
  • Schedule regular exams and cleanings with our team at South Waterfront Dental

Regular dental care is the key to preventing cavities and gum disease. By scheduling frequent cleanings and exams with our team, you can keep your teeth healthy and whole.

No cavities means lowering your risk for stroke while also enjoying a great-looking smile.

Don’t place your overall health at jeopardy by ignoring your oral health. Contact our team at South Waterfront Dental to schedule your next dental exam at our dental practice in South Portland.