Oral infections can contribute to a host of other health problems, including heart disease and stroke.

Maintaining good oral hygiene is beneficial not only to your mouth, but also to overall health. Without regular checkups and cleanings, it is difficult for individuals to realize the extent to which their mouth is healthy or not.

Oral infections can contribute to a host of other health problems, including heart disease and stroke. While it is not confirmed that periodontal disease directly causes either, there are several connections between gum disease and cardiovascular disease.

“There is a systemic link between gum disease and other health problems,” said Dr. Barry Kayne, a Delaware State Dental Society member with a private practice in Newark.

“Given that gum disease often does not cause pain, many people have a false sense of security. As soon as the oral infection spreads to the bloodstream, there is a concern for several more issues.”

Health issues begin when plaque grows on teeth. The same plaque which can cause tooth loss and gum disease can also cause heart attacks. This is because common bacteria found in dental plaque can escape into the bloodstream, travel through arteries and create blood clots that can result in a heart attack.

These types of blood clots also cause ischemic strokes, which account for 80 percent of stroke cases in the United States. A January 2004 article published in Stroke Medical Journal concluded that maintaining dental health by receiving regular treatment can help reduce the risk of ischemic stroke. It was discovered in this study that the amount of dental care and gum disease found in people tested was directly linked with that population’s risk of stroke.

Another important risk factor for stroke includes previous infection.

An October 2006 Boston University School of Dental Medicine Study found that people missing some or all of their teeth due to periodontal disease were at an increased risk for stroke. There is also a concern with chronic and recurrent infections that affect the blood flow to the brain, which often can cause stroke. In fact, chronic bronchial infection and poor dental status may be associated with an increased risk for reduced blood flow to the brain.

“The best way to avoid oral health-related heart disease and stroke is to have regularly scheduled visits with your dentist,” said Dr. Robert J. Kacmarcik Jr., DSDS past president.

“Prevention is the best tool in avoiding these diseases, so maintaining proper dental hygiene is vital.”

Oral health routines should include a routine of brushing twice a day, daily flossing and visiting a dentist every six months.

The Delaware State Dental Society, founded in 1863, is a statewide, professional membership organization representing 436 Delaware-licensed dentists. DSDS advocates for the interests of its members and the patients they serve. The Society sets ethical standards for the profession, develops and supports services for those underserved, and is the source of leadership for public awareness about oral health and disease prevention.