Researchers identify link between gum disease and young-onset stroke

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Stroke causes over seven million new cases annually, ranking second in leading global mortality

Researchers from King’s College London (KCL) and the University of Helsinki, Finland, have identified a link between gum disease and young-onset stroke in patients.

Recently published in the Journal of Dental Research, the study revealed that severe gum disease, otherwise known as periodontitis, is a risk factor in cryptogenic ischaemic stroke (CIS) patients.

A stroke, which occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off, is currently the second-leading cause of death globally.

Responsible for over seven million new strokes each year, ischaemic strokes represent over 62% of all incident strokes, while a cryptogenic stroke, a stroke that has no identifiable cause, represents up to 40% of all ischaemic strokes that have been increasing in younger populations.

Periodontitis is a serious inflammatory gum infection caused by bacteria growing under the gumline, which damages the soft tissue around the teeth.

“With the infection sending bacteria around the bloodstream from the mouth to other parts of the body, the long-term presence of this has the potential to shape our health well beyond the mouth,” explained Dr Svetislav Zaric, clinical lecturer, periodontology, KCL Centre for Host-microbiome Interactions.

Patients who had experienced CIS took part in clinical and radiographic oral examinations as part of a case-controlled study, which demonstrated that CIS was associated with high periodontal inflammation.

In addition, the study revealed that stroke severity increased with the severity of periodontitis and showed a link between invasive dental procedures, “which may have direct causality with CIS through bacteraemia,” said Zaric.

He added that, in an effort to reduce the risk of stroke, including CIS, “dental care and regular visits to the dentist may help reduce the risk of stroke related to oral health”.

Previous studies have already highlighted that people with gum disease are more likely to experience a stroke; however, further studies are needed to “estimate the favourable effect of oral health on CIS incidence,” added Zaric.

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