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Periodontal Disease Linked With Increased Risk of Atherosclerosis and Stroke

Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that hold your teeth in place, and occurs when plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, builds up on the teeth and hardens. In advanced stages, periodontal disease can lead to sore, bleeding gums, painful chewing problems, and tooth loss. Two new studies suggest there may be a link between periodontal disease and an increased risk of atherosclerosis, which in turn increases the risk of stroke.

The first study included 256 participants with an average age of 64. All had experienced a stroke and 33% had periodontal disease. Participants with periodontal disease were twice as likely to have experienced a stroke in the large arteries that were linked with intracranial atherosclerosis. They also had a three-fold increased risk of stroke involving arteries in the back of the brain, and an increased risk of large blood vessel strokes within the brain.

The second study included 1,145 participants who took part in the Dental Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. All of the participants were evaluated for periodontal disease and had MRI’s to look for artery blockages in the brain. None had experienced a stroke.

The researchers found that approximately 10% of the participants had a severe blockage in one or more arteries in the brain. Participants with periodontal disease had a 2.4-increased risk of blocked brain arteries, compared to those without periodontal disease. These results held despite the presence or other risk factors suck as age, high blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.

Both studies were conducted by researchers from t<span>he University of South Carolina School of Medicine. They were presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2020 held the week of February 15.

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