A staff member in my office recently told me she needed to take a long lunch break to go to a dentist appointment. I told her it was no problem and that we’d cover her while she was gone.
I wished her good luck and said my fingers were crossed that she’d be in the No Cavity Club. I was surprised when she got a worried look on her face…
She explained to me that she’s been dreading this appointment since her last one six months ago.
At her last cleaning, her dentist told her she had the beginning signs of gum disease. So, unbeknownst to me, she’s been working hard to heal her mouth. And not just to maintain her pretty smile…
The connection between gum disease, inflammation and your risk of stroke
Gum disease is a chronic bacterial infection and is associated with inflammation. Because inflammation plays a major role in the development and worsening of atherosclerosis — the hardening of blood vessels — it increases your risk of stroke…
The American Stroke Association examined stroke patients and found:
- Large artery strokes due to hardened arteries in the brain were twice as common in patients with gum disease as in those without gum disease.
- Patients with gum disease were three times as likely to have a stroke involving blood vessels in the back of their brain, which controls vision, coordination and other vital bodily functions — in other words, strokes that are more likely to lead to disability.
- Gum disease was more common in patients who had a stroke involving large blood vessels within the brain.
- People with gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) were twice as likely to have narrowed brain arteries from plaque buildup compared to those with no gum disease.
- After adjusting for other risk factors, people with gum disease were a full 2.4 times as likely to have severely blocked arteries — which could lead to stroke.
The link between gum disease and stroke is undeniable…
It’s not just about a nice smile anymore… keeping your gums healthy can save your life
Based on these findings, researchers are now calling for people everywhere to not only focus on maintaining blood vessel health to prevent stroke, but on gum health as well.
First, let’s look at ways to keep your gums in great shape…
Do your gums ever bleed when you brush your teeth or floss? If so, please know that this is not normal and is a cardinal sign of gum disease.
#1 — Brushing for peak effectiveness
Be sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day, holding your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your teeth. This helps clean your gums as well as your pearly whites. The best times to brush are in the morning and before bed. It’s also helpful to brush after snacks and meals if possible.
#2 — Floss regularly
Floss all of your teeth at least once a day to clean the areas that your toothbrush can’t reach.
#3 — Get your vitamin D
Vitamin D has been shown to reduce signs of early gum disease by up to 20 percent. To manage your vitamin D levels, get 30 minutes of natural sunlight per day and have 1-2 servings of vitamin D rich foods per day. These foods include fatty fish, organ meats, eggs, butter, yogurt and cheese.
If you are deficient — and most people are — consider supplementation. I recommend a full therapeutic dose of 5,000 IU of Vitamin D3 in a softgel form for maximum bioavailability.
#4 — Harness probiotic power
Probiotics help keep a healthy balance of good bacteria in your mouth so the bad bacteria don’t take over.
You can add probiotics to your oral hygiene routine by using a probiotic lozenge, or you can try what my co-worker has been doing for the last six months…
Twice a day she adds half a scoop of alkalizing greens to 4 oz of water and swishes it in her mouth like mouthwash for 10 to 15 seconds before swallowing. She’s supporting her oral health and her gut health at the same time.
At this latest checkup, the dentist told her she isn’t completely out of the woods yet, but that she’s seen a major improvement already. She told her to just keep doing what she’s been doing and that hopefully in six more months she’ll be gum disease free.
#5 — See a professional
Go to the dentist preferably every six months. Report any concerns such as bleeding or swollen gums.
If you’ve already had a stroke, it’s essential you maintain optimal oral hygiene to prevent any further complications. According to an article published in the journal Stroke, if a critically ill patient doesn’t implement regular dental care following a stroke, they may develop ventilator-associated pneumonia.
A review in the European Stroke Journal describes the possible association between poor oral hygiene in post-stroke patients and an increased risk of aspiration pneumonia, which can sometimes be fatal.
It’s clear now that the health of your arteries and the health of your gums are interconnected and play a big role in your risk of stroke. Take steps now to support both to limit your risk in the future. Plus, a 100-watt smile is the kind of side-effect I can live with!