For years now, we have understood that the loss of natural teeth is associated with an increased risk of stroke. The only problem is, we don’t really understand the connection. But this serious health connection gives another important reason to preserve your teeth.

Tooth Loss and Stroke Risk

dreamstime_s_42429498A new study from the Journal of Dental Hygiene utilizes survey results from more than 410,000 people to correlate the increased risk of stroke associated with the loss of teeth. The survey data is the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a CDC initiative begun in the mid 1980s to attempt to gauge the overall health of the US population. It is conducted every two years, and involves asking people a number of general health-related questions on a wide range of topics.

Using data from the questions “Has a doctor, nurse or other health professional ever told you that you had a stroke?” and “How many of your permanent teeth have been removed because of tooth decay or gum disease?” researchers found the following link between tooth loss and stroke:

  • 1-5 missing teeth increased the risk of stroke by 29%
  • 6 or more missing teeth increased the risk of stroke by 68% if some natural teeth remained
  • Loss of all natural teeth increased risk of stroke by 86%

These levels of increased risk were after correcting for known common risk factors.

What Is the Link?

We mentioned common risk factors above, which is important because stroke and tooth loss share many of them. Here’re a few:

Gum disease is an especially important connection. As noted in a paper by Dr. Ravon, gum disease is correlated with calcification of the carotid artery, which in turn is linked to stroke risk. Researchers from this study and a previous study with similar results attempted to link stroke risk to this effect, a well as other  possible risk factors for both stroke and tooth loss, and none of them accounted for the correlation. Tooth loss remained an independent risk factor for stroke.

A Direct Connection?

Because there seems to be no other explanation readily available, we are left with the conclusion that somehow tooth loss might directly increase stroke risk. That means that it’s vitally important to protect your teeth to reduce your stroke risk.

The good news is that we are better than ever at being able to preserve your natural teeth. With reconstructive dentistry procedures like a root canal and gum disease treatment, we can preserve teeth that in the past were considered unsavable. We can even replace them once they’re lost, although we don’t know whether dental implants will actually serve to prevent the elevated stroke risk.

If you are looking for a Beverly Hills dentist to help protect your teeth, please call (310) 275-5325 for an appointment.