Gum disease is already one of the worse oral health problems to have. Not only is it the leading cause of tooth loss in adults, but it can also cause bone loss and sinus infections, and is responsible for increased risk of diabetes, pregnancy complications, and even heart disease — the leading cause of death worldwide.
Even worse, gum disease, more officially known as periodontitis, affects nearly 50% of adults, many of whom are undiagnosed. This a particular problem in South Carolina, which is one of the top ten worst states for gum disease.
And now there’s a new reason to worry about how your gum health is affecting the rest of your body: A new study recently found that the link between gum disease and stroke is more direct than medical researchers knew.
Exposing a Dose-Response Relationship
The relationship between gum disease and stroke had already been discovered by previous studies, but researchers at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Columbia recently discovered a new level to the connection.
First, it’s important to note that gum disease doesn’t just increase risk of stroke — it doubles it. The study found that someone with mild gum disease was 1.9 times more likely to experience a stroke, and someone with severe gum disease was 2.2 times more likely. Which leads to the extraordinary part of this discovery: A dose-response relationship.
“Dose-response” is how scientists describe when a relationship between two things is affected by the “dose,” or level of exposure. In layman’s terms: The worse the gum disease, the higher the risk of stroke. This is an impactful discovery, and brings new information to the table in the ongoing quest for medical researchers to nail down the precise nature of the relationship between gum disease and stroke.
It also means that treating gum disease before it can get worse should be a top priority. The early stages of gum disease can be easy to miss, which is what leads to so many people living with undiagnosed mild gum disease.
How to Prevent and Identify Gum Disease
The best thing you can do to prevent gum disease is to practice excellent oral hygiene.
You should be brushing your teeth twice a day. But that’s not all — your tooth brushing also needs to be effective. It’s important to use a soft-bristled brush and brush in small circles along the gumline especially. It should take about two minutes to thoroughly brush each tooth on all sides.
And of course, you can’t forget flossing! A shocking one third of Americans don’t floss, despite the overwhelming health benefits. Flossing daily ensures that bacteria and plaque don’t build up in those hard-to-reach spots between your teeth.
And no matter how good your oral hygiene, there are some things only your dentist can do. That’s why it’s imperative to visit your dentist regularly for checkups. Your dentist can also identify the early signs of gum disease, so that it can be treated before it worsens.