As you know, poor oral hygiene is linked to health risks, such as stroke and heart disease. And, research suggests that the way patients take care of their teeth may be linked to brain health such as Alzheimer's disease and dementia. May is Stroke Awareness Month—this is a good time to be talking to patients about oral hygiene, stroke and dementia!
Stroke and Heart Disease
Take advantage of Stroke Awareness Month by reminding patients that brushing their teeth may reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke. They might be surprised—even shocked—to know that 700 different types of bacteria live in the human mouth. Taking care of their teeth can reduce the amount of bacteria that can grow in the mouth. Inversely, not taking care of their teeth can cause gum disease and bleeding gums, which allows bacteria to directly enter the blood stream.
Researchers found that certain types of bacteria adhere to platelets in the blood causing them to clump together and encase the bacteria, which creates small blood clots. These small blood clots increase a person's risk of having a stroke or a heart attack.
Dementia and Alzheimer's
Though there has been talk about the possibility of a link between the effects of oral health and loss of memory, a study by the University of Central Lancashire School of Medicine and Dentistry was the first to verify a specific gum disease bacteria in the brain.
The research showed that of the brain samples of 10 people with memory loss, or dementia, four had gum disease bacteria in their brains. It’s believed that this bacteria may create changes in the brain in Alzheimer's disease and dementia, contributing to confusion and failing memory.
Discuss Good Oral Hygiene Practices
It’s a good idea to remind your patients that retaining their memories should be a priority. And, they’ll want to keep their hearts healthy, as well. They can take steps toward helping ensure this by practicing good oral hygiene throughout their lives.
Encourage patients to:
- Brush teeth twice a day
- Use fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush
- Use proper brushing technique (demonstrate for them)
- Floss daily
- Get regular dental exams