Researchers found yet another association between the health of our teeth and the risk of cardiovascular disease. This time, they uncovered a significant relationship between stroke and the presence of a specific strain of streptococcus bacteria in saliva. Tooth decay resulting from the acid produced by bacteria in the process of breaking down food, allows the bacteria to enter the blood stream. Changes in the small blood vessels in the brain from age and high blood pressure may attract the bacteria, increasing inflammation and setting off a cascade of events that results in increased stroke risk. The results were published online February 5, 2016 in the journal Scientific Reports.

The complete journal article is at:
http://www.nature.com/articles/srep20074

A summary of the article is at:
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/306664.php

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The results of this research adds to previous findings showing the relationship between oral health and the health of our blood vessels and heart. Good oral health practices reduce the risk of tooth decay, of  bacteria from entering the bloodstream and ultimately, of  damage to the blood vessels in the heart and brain.

The take away from this research is that stroke risk may be reduced by following good oral health practices, as most tooth decay can be prevented most of the time. According to the American Dental Association good oral health practices include:

  • Brushing at least twice a day for at least 2 minutes. Using a soft toothbrush that fits in the mouth and allows access to all of the teeth.
  • Replacing toothbrushes every 3-4 months.
  • Using fluoride toothpaste.
  • Using proper brushing technique.

                   -  hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums. 
                    - move the brush gently back and forth in short
                      (tooth-wide) strokes. 
                    - brush all of the surfaces of the teeth, not just the 
                       chewing surface.
                    - tilt the brush vertically to clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, and make                               
                         several up-and-down strokes.
                    - and don’t forget to brush the tongue to remove bacteria

  • Flossing at least once a day, either before or after brushing.

Having regular dental check-ups is also important to attaining and maintaining good oral health. In June of 2013, the American Dental Association released a statement on regular dental visits  recommending that the frequency of visits for good oral health should be determined by the dentist based on individual oral health status and health history.

For more information:

American Dental Association –

        Brushing and flossing - http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/brushing-your-teeth

         Flossing basics -  http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/f/flossing/

          Five steps to flossing  http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/f/flossing-steps

           Recommendation for frequency of dental visits http://www.ada.org/en/press-room/news-    
           releases/2013-archive/june/american-dental-association-statement-on-regular-
          dental-visits


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Joanna Hayden, PhD, CHES is the principal health education specialist at Associates for Health Education and Behavior in Sparta, a practice focused on improving health through education. For more information please see www.associatesforhealth.com  To contact Dr. Hayden, email her at joanna@associatesforhealth.com