How Dental Problems Can Lead to Stroke

Did you know that your dental health has consequences that go well beyond your mouth? Taking care of your teeth has been found to protect your overall health, and the most surprising relationship between dental health and overall health is that problems with your dental health have been associated with stroke.

A young dentist talking with her patient
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What Kind of Dental Problems Lead to Stroke? 

Research studies from countries as diverse as Germany, France, Sweden, India, and Korea show that varying degrees of periodontal disease (gum disease) are associated with strokes. Mild gum disease, which causes inflammation of the gums, is called gingivitis, while more serious gum disease that causes the actual destruction of the gums is called periodontitis. Severe periodontitis can lead to tooth decay and eventually even tooth loss. All three of these types of gum disease are associated with a stroke — even the mildest form, which is gingivitis.

A recent research study from Sweden followed in 1676 randomly selected people over a period of 26 years. Researchers reported, “that gingival inflammation was clearly associated with stroke.”

And yet another research study found that having severe periodontal disease and tooth loss was a strong predictor of stroke, and even that people who had lost more teeth had usually experienced more strokes. Tooth loss was found to be a predictor of silent strokes. Silent strokes are strokes that people don't know they had because silent strokes don't cause obvious handicaps. However, over time, the build-up of silent strokes can cause disabling problems such as dementia.

What Kind of Strokes Can Dental Problems Cause?

Many research studies have shown a correlation between gum disease and lack of dental care with ischemic strokes. Ischemic strokes are strokes caused by interruption of blood flow due to a blood clot.

Dental Problems Associated With Stroke

Dental problems such as gingivitis, periodontitis, and tooth loss are all associated with inflammation, and sometimes with an infection. Infections have been shown to increase the risk of stroke, possibly due to the body's inflammatory immune response to infections.

Sometimes inflammation and infection can make the blood more likely to clot, causing a stroke. If serious dental problems persist untreated for a long time, the inflammation and infection that result from unhealthy teeth and gums can make an ischemic stroke more likely.

How to Protect Your Teeth

It is advantageous to have good dental health. For many people, dental care can seem time-consuming and costly. Prevention of gum disease and tooth loss is best achieved through consistently brushing teeth, flossing, avoiding cigarettes and regular visits to the dentist. Once gum disease has started, it is treatable and manageable. Often, deep cleaning in the dentist’s office is recommended.

Cost of Dental Care

One of the biggest reasons that people do not take care of their teeth is concern about the cost. It may be beneficial to ask for recommendations and ask the dentist's office about the cost of a dental visit ahead of time. And it is useful to keep in mind that some health insurance plans cover the complete or partial cost of dental care. Overall, the cost of dental care is much lower than the cost of a stroke, which is an expensive lifelong condition to live with.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Söder B, Meurman JH, Söder PÖ. Gingival inflammation associates with stroke--a role for oral health personnel in prevention: a database studyPLoS One. 2015;10(9):e0137142. Published 2015 Sep 25. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0137142

  3. Minn YK, Suk SH, Park H, et al. Tooth loss is associated with brain white matter change and silent infarction among adults without dementia and stroke. J Korean Med Sci. 2013;28(6):929-33. doi:10.3346/jkms.2013.28.6.929

  4. Sen S, Giamberardino LD, Moss K, et al. Periodontal disease, regular dental care use, and incident ischemic stroke. Stroke. 2018;49(2):355-362. doi:10.1161/STROKEAHA.117.018990

  5. Jeerakathil T, Lo W. Infection as cause of stroke: a contagious idea that may explain racial disparity. Neurology. 2014;82(11):908-9. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000000224

  6. Wang G, Zhang Z, Ayala C, Dunet DO, Fang J, George MG. Costs of hospitalization for stroke patients aged 18-64 years in the United States. J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. 2014;23(5):861-8. doi:10.1016/j.jstrokecerebrovasdis.2013.07.017

Additional Reading

By Heidi Moawad, MD
Heidi Moawad is a neurologist and expert in the field of brain health and neurological disorders. Dr. Moawad regularly writes and edits health and career content for medical books and publications.