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Stroke and dental care
October 10, 2019

This article is intended for dentists caring for our members with a history of stroke.

We recently added stroke and Sjogren’s syndrome to the list of conditions included in our Enhanced Dental Benefits program.

This program provides additional dental benefits paid at 100 percent. These benefits are not subject to deductibles, coinsurance, or calendar year maximums when performed by a participating or preferred dental provider.

This article discusses the connections between stroke and overall health. For a discussion of Sjogren’s syndrome and dental care, please see our news article on that topic.

What is stroke?

A stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident, occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is disrupted. This can occur either through blockage of the blood vessel by a clot or leakage of a blood vessel in the affected area. The blockage or occlusive type of stroke where the blood flow is interrupted has been associated with oral inflammation. Individuals with poor oral health have an increased risk of having this type of stroke.1

After a stroke, patients may also have a wide array of symptoms that can affect their ability to care for their teeth, ranging from paralysis, loss of fine motor control, muscle weakness or numbness in the face, difficulty swallowing, and mental confusion.2 Patients may need to use modified or electric tooth brushes, various oral rinses, or have hygiene or periodontal procedures performed more frequently to help them maintain their oral hygiene.

  1. Cerebrovasc Dis Extra. 2018 Jan-Apr; 8(1): 1–15. Published online 2018 Jan 9. doi:10.1159/000484989
  2. Mayo Clinic article: Stroke

What additional benefits will be offered?

Our members who have had a past history of a stroke are eligible to receive the following additional dental benefits:

  • One cleaning or periodontal maintenance visit every three months
  • Periodontal scaling once per quadrant every 24 months*

* For members with plans that include periodontal maintenance.

We will automatically enroll patients with a claim indicating a diagnosis of stroke. For members who do not have medical benefits through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, or who do not have a medical diagnosis indicating stroke in their Blue Cross claims history, please ask the patient to have their physician certify the diagnosis by submitting the Enhanced Dental Benefits Enrollment Form.

“I have been interested in the connection between oral health and overall health for many years. I am glad to see dental insurance carriers making this connection with various conditions, including stroke, to help their members achieve improved health. This allows the dentist to play a more prominent role in the management of their patients’ health.”

- Dr. Bruce Donoff

Dean, Harvard School of Dental Medicine


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