Oral Bacteria Linked to Stroke

According to a study published February 2016 in Scientific Reports, a journal of the Nature Publishing Group, a specific strain of oral bacteria can be linked to an increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhagic stroke accounts for approximately 40% of all stroke deaths, and is caused by either a brain aneurism or the rupture of a weakened blood vessel. The presence of the oral bacteria cnm-positive Streptococcus mutans may significantly increase your risk of experiencing a hemorrhagic stroke caused by the latter.

The Stroke-Bacterium Link

In collaboration with researchers from the University of Louisville School of Medicine, scientists at the National Cerebral and Stroke Cardiovascular Center in Osaka, Japan evaluated patients admitted to the hospital for acute stroke. They discovered that 26% of patients who had an intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) also had Streptococcus mutans in their saliva. An ICH is a stroke caused by a ruptured blood vessel. Blood leaks into the brain, causing swelling and pressure and damaging brain cells and tissues. However, there was no statistically significant link between oral bacteria and other types of stork; only 6% of patients that experienced strokes other than ICH tested positive for the Streptococcus mutans bacterium.

Researchers also checked the patients’ MRIs for the appearance of cerebral microbleeds (CMBs). CMBs are small brain hemorrhages that are thought to contribute to dementia and are often associated with an increased risk for intracerebral hemorrhages. They discovered that the presence of CMBs increased dramatically in patients with the Streptococcus mutans bacterium in their saliva.

Researchers believe that the oral bacteria attach to blood vessels that have become worn down by age and high blood pressure…eventually causing arterial ruptures in the brain and leading to hemorrhages.

The Importance of Excellent Oral Care brushing teeth

“This study shows that oral health is important for brain health. People need to take care of their teeth because it is good for their brain and their heart as well as their teeth,” said Robert P. Friedland, M.D., the Mason C. and Mary D. Rudd Endowed Chair and Professor in Neurology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, and a co-author of the study. “The study and related work in our labs have shown that oral bacteria are involved in several kinds of stroke, including brain hemorrhages and strokes that lead to dementia.”

An estimated 10% of the population has the Streptococcus mutans bacterium lurking in their saliva, but practicing good oral hygiene can greatly reduce your risk for oral bacteria and associated diseases. In addition to regular brushing and flossing, consider adding an oral probiotic made up of the strains S. salivarius and Bacillus coagulans to your supplement regimen. Both these probiotic strains have been shown to battle oral bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease.

Mouthwash is designed to help wash away bad bacteria, but conventional mouthwash often contains harmful chemicals. To help bolster your oral care program, rinse with a homemade mouthwash made with all-natural bacteria busters.

  • ½ cup filtered water
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 2 drops tea tree oil

Shake before use (the baking soda will settle to the bottom) and gargle with your homemade mouthwash for 1-2 minutes. You can also practice oil pulling (gargling with an oil, such as coconut oil, for 20 minutes).

Happy gargling!