Researchers from King’s College London and the University of Helsinki have identified a link between periodontitis (gum disease) and cryptogenic ischemic stroke, which causes a blockage in the blood vessel that supplies blood to a region of the brain.

Recently published in the Journal of Dental Research, the results highlight severe gum disease as a risk factor for young-onset stroke, in patients with unidentifiable other risk factors. A cryptogenic stroke is a stroke that has no identifiable cause and makes up about 25-40 per cent of ischemic strokes.

The study was led by Susanna Paju, a periodontology specialist from the University of Helsinki in collaboration with Svetislav Zaric, clinical lecturer in periodontology from the Centre for Host-Microbiome Interactions at King’s College London.

Svetislav explained, “Stroke remains the second leading cause of death globally. Strikingly, the incidence and prevalence of ischemic stroke have been increasing in the younger population during past decades.

“Periodontitis is deep inflammation of the gums, caused by bacteria that grow under the gumline. With the infection sending bacteria around the bloodstream from the mouth to other parts of the bodies, the long-term presence of this has the potential to shape our health well beyond the mouth.”

A case-controlled study saw participants take part in thorough clinical and radiographic oral examinations. Participants included those who had experienced a cryptogenic ischemic stroke (CIS) and results showed that CIS was associated with high periodontal inflammation burden. Stroke severity increased with the severity of periodontitis.

Svetislav added, "Dental care and regular visits to the dentist may help reduce the risk of stroke related to oral health, however the findings also showed a link between invasive dental procedure, which may have direct causality with CIS through bacteremia.”

“Further studies are warranted to estimate the favourable effect of oral health on CIS incidence.”