At Oakridge Dental Center (www.oakridgedentalcenter.com), we are concerned with your whole health. Our goal is to keep your mouth healthy so that you can be free from pain, disease and inflammation. Gum disease or periodontal disease is the infection and inflammation of the gums and other supporting tissues of the teeth caused by oral bacteria. While gum disease is a local infection that affects the teeth, gums and surrounding tissue, it can also have negative effects on overall health. Scientists believe there is a connection between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Periodontal inflammation is associated with inflammation in the brain that increases the risk for cognitive dysfunctions linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and the number six leading cause of death in America. Almost five million Americans have this progressive condition that involves loss of cognitive function and short-term memory. Incidences of this disease continue to increase every year in the United States. As of today, there is no cure. Its most common risk factors include old age, heredity and family history. Most of the patients suffering from Alzheimer’s also have gum disease. Researchers believe that there is a connection between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Here are some of the findings on the relationship between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Periodontal Inflammation Increases the Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease
Periodontal disease increases the risk of developing the cognitive disorder linked to Alzheimer’s disease. According to research conducted to find out the casual relationship between these two conditions, people with periodontal inflammation face an increased risk of having lower cognitive functions compared to those without periodontal inflammation. The risk increases as the level of inflammation increases. Scientists believe that gum disease also makes cognitive functions worse in people already suffering from declining cognitive functions.
In 2005, a group of researchers noticed an increased presence of antibodies and inflammatory chemicals linked to gum disease in patients of Alzheimer’s disease compared to that of healthy individuals. Patients of Alzheimer’s disease showed higher levels of periodontal bacteria in their brains. Researchers believe that when the oral bacteria multiply, they enter the blood stream and travel to the brain, where they cause infections and damage.
There are believed to be three possible ways that periodontal disease can lead to Alzheimer’s : the periodontal bacteria cause infections and damage brain cells; the periodontal bacteria trigger inflammation of the brain, which is involved in Alzheimer’s disease; or the oral bacteria responsible for gum disease causes vascular changes that promote Alzheimer’s disease.
Early Periodontal Health and Alzheimer’s Disease
According to an article published in the Journal of American Dental Association, any kind of inflammation in the early stages of life, whether in childhood or youth stages, increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as an adult. Developing periodontal disease or losing teeth at the age of 35 or below increases the risk of having Alzheimer’s disease in later years. Not practicing proper dental care increases the risk of infections in the mouth as well as the vulnerability for dementia.
Shared Risk Factors
Common risk factors for both Alzheimer’s disease and periodontal disease include genetics and smoking cigarettes. These risk factors could explain the correlation between these two conditions. Periodontal inflammation and any kind of tooth loss are risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.
It is also possible that periodontal disease can cause cerebrovascular injury to the brain. Stroke is also a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Gum disease increases the risk of developing a stroke.
Patients of Alzheimer’s disease are not always able to practice the required oral and dental hygiene needed to maintain a healthy mouth. This places them at a higher risk of developing gum disease. It is important to treat periodontal disease in Alzheimer’s patients as it can have effects on their overall health.
While there is no conclusive evidence that gum disease causes Alzheimer’s disease, all these studies conclude that preventing periodontal disease is an effective way of avoiding or delaying Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a healthy diet, regular visits to the dentist as well as practicing proper dental hygiene by brushing teeth and flossing are effective ways of preventing both conditions.