The last generation has seen many links drawn between oral hygiene and other health issues. The connection between dental plaque and heart disease is probably the most publicized example, though it is now believed that 90% of all health issues have some connection to our teeth, gums and mouth. Sometimes this connection is an initial cause, sometimes it is an increased risk factor, more often it is a symptom that allows early diagnosis.
A study of patients having suffered a stroke has shown a strong association with the oral bacteria (cnm-positive Streptococcus mutans). The association seems strongest with Haemorrhagic strokes rather than intracerebral strokes.
Haemorrhagic stroke is the term for blood vessels in the brain that rupture. It is thought that the presence of cnm-positive Streptococcus mutans bacteria in the person’s blood may be increasing the risk of a stroke; the bacteria seem to bind to blood vessels weakened by age and high pressure and increase the risk of rupture. The bacteria are not the sole cause of the stroke, but it increases the chance of stroke if the other risk factors are already there. Only 10 % on the population have these type of bacteria in their body, but this level is measured at more than 26% in stroke victims
If the theory about the bacteria binding to blood vessels is accurate there may be further health implications; the same binding properties would affect dementia, and could well provide the link between dental hygiene and heart problems.
Previously, there had been speculation that heart, stroke and dental issues occurred because individuals were negligent in all aspects of their health – people who didn’t brush their teeth were also people who didn’t exercise or eat well. Now it appears the link is more direct, and is physiological rather than psychological. Poor dental health compromises our overall health.