We talk a lot about heart-healthy dentistry at Really Smile Dentistry, and with good reason: your oral and bodily health are intimately linked! Poor oral health has been shown to lead to a whole bunch of serious health conditions, and you can add one more to that list: strokes.
While we’ve known for a while that stroke victims have a higher rate of poor oral health, a recent study has shed new light on precisely why. The good thing is that it isn’t irreversible, but the bad part is that it’s serious!
The Mouth-Brain Connection
We aren’t talking about the words that come out of it – we’re talking about what can make its way from your mouth to your brain undetected: bacteria. Recent research discovered that a particular strain – Streptococcus mutans – is implicated in around a third of strokes, yet is only present in about ten percent of the population.
Our mouths play host to hundreds of strains of bacteria, so S. mutans isn’t the only dangerous one. It is, however, a serious risk factor for potential stroke patients to consider! If your family has a history of cerebral hemorrhaging and/or strokes then you need to pay close attention to your oral health!
The discovery that S. mutans is linked to strokes also comes with the discovery of how it affects your brain. It’s able to hitch a ride on blood vessels where it travels to weak points in your brain. Once there it builds up until it causes arterial ruptures, triggering hemorrhages and strokes.
How Bacteria Endangers Your Brain
S. mutans can’t exactly get to your brain without a way into your bloodstream. Fortunately for this deadly bacteria it also contributes to gum disease and tooth decay, both of which give it easy access to your bloodstream.
Gum disease occurs when bacteria (both S. mutans and other strains) get under the surface of your gums. They spread and cause inflammation once there, eventually leading to symptoms like swelling, discoloration, recession, and (here’s the big one) bleeding. Once your gums have broken you’ve given S. mutans and other bacteria an easy way into your circulatory system, where they can get to your brain, heart, and other organs.
Tooth decay can be an even bigger risk for letting bacteria into your blood. Cavities have to get pretty deep into your tooth before they hit the root, but once there they have free access to the dental pulp that contains nerves and blood vessels. Bacteria infects dental pulp fast, and once it does you’ll experience pain and the spread of bacteria.
Prevention: It Can Be Done!
While the presence of S. mutans definitely increases your chances of having a stroke it doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to fate. Like any other bacteria in your mouth that can cause health problems there’s a key to preventing those problems: keeping bacterial growth in check with good oral hygiene!
While you can do a lot to keep your teeth healthy at home there’s no way for you to do everything. Brushing and flossing are essential to promoting good oral health, but there are innumerable small spaces that can’t be kept clean with the tools you have at home.
Truly keeping oral bacteria under control requires professional cleanings and exams like the kind offered at our Carmel dentist office. Paired with good home care, a checkup every six months can be enough to almost completely eliminate your chances of developing tooth decay and gum disease that can destroy your oral health!
The care we provide will allow us to identify problems early so that you never need to get to the point of an infected root or bleeding gums. We also take the time to clear out any plaque that has accumulated in the spots you can’t reach, leaving you with a clean, healthy mouth that’s ready to resist the ravages of S. mutans and its co-conspirators.
Strokes and other health problems caused by oral bacteria need the catalyst of poor oral health to do their dirty work. If you keep your mouth healthy and clean you’ll never need to worry about your teeth being responsible for your poor health!
Take Action Now!
Keeping your smile healthy and clean at our Carmel office won’t just make you look great – it’ll protect your whole body. Do yourself a favor and schedule an appointment with us today!
You can reach Really Smile Dentistry by calling 317-451-4050 or you can request an appointment by filling out our online form. We look forward to seeing you soon!