Gum Disease, Dementia and Alzheimer’s

About 12 million Americans suffer from some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia accounting for about 60%‒70% of all dementia cases. In Alzheimer’s disease, healthy brain cells begin to die in increasing numbers, resulting in an array of cognitive problems including short-term memory loss. Over time, as cell death continues, symptoms of Alzheimer’s can become much worse, and eventually, patients are unable to care for themselves, relying solely on family members or healthcare providers for even the simple tasks of daily living.

Gum Disease, Inflammation and Alzheimer’s Disease

But what causes cell death to occur in the first place? Most researchers agree chronic inflammation plays a significant role, causing a cascade of responses in the body, including reactions that result in premature cell death. For many adults (and especially older adults), one of the most common causes of chronic inflammatory responses is periodontal disease (or gum disease). In periodontal disease, harmful bacteria forms a sticky plaque layer that adheres to the tooth surface above and below the gum line. When plaque is not removed from your teeth promptly, it begins to damage the surrounding tissues. This damage is done by the endotoxins, a byproduct of bacterial metabolism. Those toxins cause the gum tissue to swell and bleed. Over time, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream through broken capillaries in the swollen gum tissue, allowing the pathogens to travel throughout the body. It’s believed that this is how certain periodontal bacteria can make their way into the brain. Once the oral pathogens (oral bacteria) enter the bloodstream from the mouth, they disseminate in the brain and initiate the brain’s own immune response. This cascade of brain immune responses causes the actual degeneration of the brain tissue, which impacts the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Recent research has found a link between progressive brain cell degeneration and periodontal disease. In that research, which was conducted by scientists from the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Florida, samples of brain tissue were taken from patients with dementia and from those without it; then, they were compared and evaluated for the presence of bacterial byproducts associated with the germs responsible for gum disease. Specifically, the study found evidence that Porphyromonas gingivalis, one of the primary causes of gum disease, enters the brain tissue through the bloodstream, initiating an inflammatory response in the brain tissue that contributes to early cell death and brain tissue degeneration associated with Alzheimer’s disease and its progression. This research links periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s disease to the extent that periodontal disease is now being considered a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

Manage Your Risks With Oral DNA Testing

What does this mean for you? The evidence that harmful pathogens associated with periodontal disease are able to enter the bloodstream and cause damaging effects throughout the body is fairly well established. That means one of the best ways you can reduce your risks for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is to do all you can to control and reduce populations of harmful bacteria. And one of the best ways to do that is to have regular dental checkups and practice proactive care for gum disease, preferably in its earliest stages before the bacteria have a chance to grow, multiply and spread. That’s actually good news because it means you can take one simple step now to reduce your risks of dementia and other serious conditions simply by scheduling a periodontal evaluation. Call our office to schedule your evaluation and learn how we can help you reduce your risks for gum disease and the serious systemic diseases it can cause.

Call us at 212-564-6686 and schedule a free consultation.

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