Stroke and Oral Health: Is There a Connection?

Woman hands holding human brain shape made from paper on light blue background

Oral health and stroke may seem unrelated at first glance, but research has shown a strong connection between the two. A stroke is a severe medical condition that disrupts blood flow to the brain, causing brain cells to die.

While most people think of stroke as a problem with the heart and blood vessels, recent studies have revealed that oral health can also play a role in the risk of stroke.

Gum Disease is Linked to Stroke

Gum disease is a common oral health problem affecting 47.2% of American adults over 30. It is caused by bacteria that build up on teeth and gums, forming plaque and tartar. Tartar is a hard calculus that irritates and inflames the gum tissue. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss and other serious health problems, including stroke.

A 2019 study found that people with severe gum disease (periodontitis) are at a higher risk of stroke than those without the condition. This may be caused by inflammation associated with gum disease spreading to other parts of the body, including the brain, causing hardening of the blood vessels and increasing the risk of stroke.

Oral Complications of Stroke

Stroke can also have an impact on oral health. Some of the most common oral complications that can arise after a stroke include:

Changes in Taste and Saliva Flow

Many stroke patients experience changes in taste and saliva flow due to damage to the sensory neurons in their brains. They may find that food tastes different or that they have a dry mouth, leading to difficulty eating and drinking. A dry mouth can also increase the risk of cavities and gum disease since saliva helps to wash away bacteria and remineralize tooth enamel.

Tongue Protrusion

Some stroke patients may experience tongue protrusion, where the tongue sticks out of the mouth involuntarily. This can cause the tongue to become dry and irritated, leading to infections and other oral health problems, such as thrush (candidiasis).

Facial Paralysis and Tooth Decay

Facial paralysis (palsy) is a common complication of stroke, which can cause difficulty with speaking, eating, and drinking. Low cheek and mouth muscle tone due to palsy can cause food debris to build up in cheek pockets, leading to tooth decay. This can be exacerbated because patients may have difficulty brushing or flossing, causing excessive bacteria and plaque buildup.

Patients with facial paralysis may also experience excessive tooth enamel wear and tear on the affected side of their face, increasing the risk of cavities.

Dentures can become loose or ill-fitting after a stroke. This can cause irritation and inflammation of the gums, leading to further oral health problems, such as cheilitis< and stomatitis. It is vital to have dentures adjusted or replaced as needed to maintain good oral health.

Schedule Your Dental Exam Today

Maintaining good oral health is essential for overall health, and the link between oral health and stroke highlights the importance of preventive dental care. Regular dental check-ups, cleanings, and proper at-home oral hygiene habits can help prevent gum disease and other oral health problems contributing to stroke risk.

If you live in the Hinsdale area and require dental care, schedule an appointment with Hinsdale Dental. Our team of experienced dental professionals can provide the care and attention you need to maintain good oral health.

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