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Stroke and Your Oral Health | United Concordia

The Connection Between Stroke and Your Oral Health

Stroke and gum disease are linked

The Side Effects of Stroke


A stroke can damage areas of the brain that control basic functions such as talking, walking and thinking. In fact, stroke is a leading cause of disability among American adults.1

During a stroke, blood flow is cut off in the brain, depriving cells of oxygen. As cells begin to die, that part of the brain doesn’t work like it should anymore. Some people have side effects such as paralysis on one side of the face, difficulty swallowing, and weakened hands. These physical challenges can make it harder to keep up with oral hygiene routines. Some people may even need help brushing, flossing and rinsing.


Possible Oral Complications of Stroke

People who are recovering from stroke may be more susceptible to dental problems.

With facial paralysis, it’s easier for food to get trapped between teeth without realizing it. Paralyzed muscles can also lead to poor-fitting dentures, which can irritate gums. And some medications taken to prevent another stroke can reduce saliva, which helps to rinse and clean the mouth.

When excess food and bacteria stick to teeth, plaque can build up and cause gum disease. If left untreated, gum disease can progress to periodontitis, a serious infection that can permanently damage your teeth and jaw bones.


Gum Disease is Linked to Stroke

A recent study shows that periodontal disease may increase your chance of having a stroke.2 Unfortunately, more than 75 percent of adults have gum disease, but only 3 percent get professional treatment.3

Maintaining good oral health can help to reduce your risk of stroke. It’s important to schedule regular dental exams and cleanings, and get any problems treated promptly.


Taking Care of Your Mouth after a Stroke

  • Keep the toothbrush in the same spot, so it’s easy to remember.
  • If the toothbrush is hard to hold, slip a larger plastic grip over the handle. These can be ordered online.
  • An electric toothbrush may make brushing easier.
  • To minimize dry mouth, try an over-the-counter saliva substitute or oral rinse. You can also keep your mouth moist by sipping water or chewing sugarless gum.


Tips for Caregivers

  • To boost cooperation, let the person who’s recovering pick the place or time of day for oral care.
  • Offer praise to motivate the person to become more independent in oral hygiene.
  • If the person has trouble swallowing, use just a small amount of toothpaste.
  • Towel or swab the mouth if tooth brushing isn’t possible.
  • Use a tongue cleaner to remove bacteria and food particles.



1. Stroke Facts; National Stroke Association; 2018

2. Stroke; American Heart Association; April 2013

3. American Journal of Preventive Medicine; National Center for Biotechnology Information; 2014