Patients with periodontitis have higher risk of stroke before age 50, study finds

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Periodontitis significantly increases the risk of stroke in people under 50 years of age who do not have any known predisposing causes, researchers in Finland have found. Moreover, the more the inflammation has progressed in the mouth, the more serious the stroke.

A study led by a team at the University of Helsinki—and published in the Journal of Dental Research—surveyed inflammatory changes associated with periodontitis as well as recently completed dental procedures in young stroke patients. The focus was individuals who had a stroke between the ages of 20 and 50 without any of the known causal factors for strokes identified.

“In previous studies, periodontitis has been found to increase the risk of ischemic stroke, but there has been no accurate information on the significance of oral inflammations in the case of young stroke patients without traditional causal factors,” Susanna Paju said.

The study found that periodontitis was significantly more common among stroke patients than healthy control subjects. Not only did periodontitis increase the risk of stroke, its severity affected that of the stroke too.

According to the study, dental procedures carried out in the previous three months, such as tooth extraction or root canal treatment, as well as acutely symptomatic inflamed teeth yet to be removed, increased the risk of stroke.

“Oral bacteria enter the bloodstream in connection with low-grade inflammations, but also in the short-term in connection with dental procedures, especially with pre-existing inflammations in the mouth,” Paju said.

“Usually, the body eliminates these bacteria from the bloodstream.”

This is important because bacteria commonly seen in the mouth has been found in the brains of people who have had a stroke

The mouth contains the body’s second-richest microbiome, or a community of microbes, such as bacteria, yeasts and viruses. A healthy mouth has a balanced microbiome, while in periodontitis it changes, and harmful bacteria gain ground.

“A vicious cycle is born where bacteria are nourished by tissue destroyed by inflammation. Their reproduction, in turn, accelerates the inflammation,” Professor Pirkko Pussinen said.

This is why it is important to react to symptoms associated with periodontitis in a timely manner.

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