The Surprising Connection Between Oral Health and Alzheimer’s

For most people, brushing and flossing are a normal part of everyday life. While comfort can be taken in the fact that these daily hygiene practices protect your teeth and gums, surprisingly it also may provide protection from developing Alzheimer’s disease.gum disease and dementia

According to current research, a possible link has been discovered between Alzheimer’s and gum disease. While the exact cause of Alzheimer’s isn’t known, this link may provide insight into forms of prevention while highlighting the importance of maintaining good oral health through all stages of life.

To help provide you with the most up-to-date information, we’ll look at:

  • What’s the connection between oral health and Alzheimer’s?
  • What is Alzheimer’s disease?
  • What is gum disease?
  • How you can help prevent Alzheimer’s with oral hygiene

The connection between Alzheimer’s and oral health is a surprising one. Fortunately, maintaining a regimen or regular brushing, flossing, and seeing your dentist can help limit your risks of developing the disease.

What’s the Connection Between Oral Health and Alzheimer’s?

According to a recent study, researchers may have discovered a possible link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s. The key factor is a type of bacteria known as Porphyromonas gingivalis, or P. gingivalis for short. P. gingivalis is associated with gum disease and secretes a toxic enzyme known as gingipains.  

As part of the study, researchers examined the saliva, brain tissue, and spinal fluid of both living and deceased Alzheimer’s sufferers. They found that 96% of the 53 brain tissue samples had higher concentrations of gingipains in people with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. In short, it’s possible for bacteria related to gum disease to move from the mouth to the brain, resulting in Alzheimer’s symptoms.

According to Dr. Richard Kao, president of the American Academy of Periodontology:

Periodontists have long known that a healthy mouth contributes to a healthy body, and research has suggested an association between periodontal disease and dementia conditions, such as Alzheimer’s. These recent findings present strong evidence on how periodontal disease can impact the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease and should highlight how crucial it is to manage periodontal disease, especially in older adults or individuals who have increased risk for dementia

As the head of an organization that represents over 8,000 periodontists, Dr. Kao and his colleagues are extremely concerned about the oral health of Americans. For him, this study only highlights the importance of dental hygiene and, more importantly, maintaining the health of your gums.

Keep in mind that gum disease isn’t the only factor when it comes to Alzheimer’s. Other links have been made between Alzheimer’s and head injuries and cardiovascular disease. 

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

According to the CDC, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a diminishment in one’s cognitive abilities. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that starts with memory loss and can advance to the point of not being able to carry on conversations or interact with the environment around you.

The cause is currently unknown, but factors such as age and genetics can play important roles in your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Age is the biggest risk factor, with symptoms usually becoming apparent around the age of 60. 

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is the result of poor oral hygiene habits. It’s caused by plaque building up and not being removed properly by brushing, flossing, and regular cleanings from your hygienist. Doing so may protect you from serious long-term dental problems, as well.

Plaque on your teeth is caused by starches and sugars from the food you eat combined with the naturally-occuring bacteria in your mouth. It’s invisible, sticky, and grows quickly even after brushing and flossing. Plaque’s ability to grow quickly is why proper brushing and flossing are so important. Doing so helps protect your teeth from problems like gingivitis and periodontitis

How You Can Help Prevent Alzheimer’s with Oral Hygiene

Maintaining good oral health doesn’t guarantee that you’ll never develop Alzheimer’s disease, nor does poor oral health guarantee that you’ll develop Alzheimer’s. However, maintaining basic oral hygiene can help give you peace of mind knowing that you’re doing everything you can to protect your oral and overall health. 

To prevent gum disease and possibly Alzheimer’s disease, make sure that you’re:

  • Brushing for two minutes, twice per day
  • Flossing at least one per day after eating
  • Rinsing with an ADA-approved mouthwash
  • Seeing your dentist and hygienist every six months for cleanings and checkups

Gum disease is an easily preventable condition. It can also be treated when caught early in the form of gingivitis. Failure to take care of your teeth can have serious consequences even if it never develops into Alzheimer’s disease. When left untreated, gingivitis can progress into periodontitis, which can result in tooth loss.

It’s estimated that around 80% of American adults have some form of gum disease. Here at My Family Dentistry, we’re able to treat gum disease using minimally invasive laser therapy. This FDA-approved treatment treats your gum disease without scalpels or sutures.

Are you concerned about your risk of developing gum disease? Schedule an appointment today and get the healthy smile you deserve!

My Family Dentistry is open Monday through Thursday and every other Friday. Give us a call at (865) 947-6453 or you can schedule an appointment online.

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