Flossing And Brushing May Be Good For Your Brain
Feb. 14, 2000 (Atlanta) -- Following a dentist's advice may not seem like the most likely way to protect the brain, but according to research presented at a meeting in New Orleans, flossing and brushing may help prevent strokes.
Although past research has linked severe gum disease, or periodontitis, to 'hardening of the arteries,' stroke, and heart disease, Armin J. Grau, MD, and researchers at the University of Heidelberg in Germany have undertaken what's believed to be the first study of its kind looking at the link between periodontitis and stroke.
Grau presented preliminary findings from his study at the American Stroke Association's 25th International Stroke Conference. The research, which is designed to examine 300 patients with stroke caused by a clot in the brain and 600 people for comparison who have not had a stroke, is ongoing, and is still enrolling participants.
Periodontitis is an infection of the gums, the membranes at the base of the teeth, and the supporting bone. As the natural barrier between the tooth and gum erodes, bacteria from the inflammation and infection may be able to enter the bloodstream. Those bacteria can increase plaque buildup in the arteries, perhaps leading to clots.
Last July, preliminary data revealed that one-third more people who had had a stroke were found to have severe periodontitis, compared with the control group. On top of that, the odds "tended to increase," Grau writes, when compared with other stroke risks such as previous stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, current and previous smoking, and even childhood socioeconomic status.
Maurizio Trevisan, MD, professor and chairman of the department of social and preventive medicine at the University at Buffalo in New York, is the co-author of another study that looked at the link between periodontal disease and stroke. He and colleagues found that people with severe gum disease are twice as likely to have the type of stroke brought on by clots than people with good oral health.
Trevisan's study was made up of nearly 10,000 adults aged 25-75 and was conducted from 1972-1974 with a follow-up completed in 1992.