Can Gum Disease Contribute To Alzheimer’s?

It seems like we can’t go a week without hearing about another health condition that’s linked to gum disease. Recently we found out that it can trigger cerebral hemorrhages, increase stroke risk, and even lead to esophageal cancer. To top it all off you can now add Alzheimer’s to that list.

All the risks that poor gingival health pose to your body are magnified in similar ways, and the recent finding about Alzheimer’s is no different. The worst part about these side effects is that it’s so easy to prevent them with proper care. We treat gum disease patients all the time at Northwest Dental Group – you can trust us to help keep your smile healthy!

Your Gums And Your Mind: A Strong Connection

To understand how gum disease can contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s it’s necessary to understand what exactly gum disease does. It all starts in your gums, obviously, when oral bacteria manages to slip below your gumline it causes an infection which your body has a hard time getting rid of.

Like any other infection, your body reacts to bacteria beneath your gums with inflammation. Minor inflammation is what causes the redness around a cut, and it’s that same response that makes your gums get puffed up, red, and tender. It’s actually an influx of white blood cells sent to fight off infection, and in most cases it works. Not in your mouth, however.

Inflammation of the gums doesn’t cease, and generally becomes worse without treatment. Here’s where things become a problem for your body: the inflammation in your gums, which may seem to be a small-scale problem, actually triggers inflammatory markers in your blood. Those markers, a recent study found, greatly increase the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

What The Study Found

A group of Alzheimer’s patients were measured for gum disease. Around half the group had it and half didn’t. At the six month mark those same patients were re-examined and researchers found that gum disease sufferers experienced six times more brain function loss than those with healthy mouths!

While the study didn’t discover an absolute link or a causal effect around inflammatory markers and Alzheimer’s the evidence suggests a fairly solid link. Alzheimer’s also makes it harder for patients to stay on top of good health habits, which may very well make decline happen faster.

Until we know for sure that gum disease inflammation affects the function of the brain the most we can say with certainty is “take precautions.” Despite this, there are numerous other diseases that are caused by an increase in inflammatory markers, such as heart disease, strokes, heart attacks, and arthritis. The takeaway from this new information is simple: take care of your teeth and they’ll take care of you!

Preventing Gum Disease

No matter your age or how many teeth you have left gum disease can be managed. In many cases it can even be managed easily with good home care habits and professional dental checkups. There’s a three pronged attack to be made on oral bacteria, and they aren’t difficult steps to take!

  • Brushing should be done twice a day for at least two minutes each session. Make sure to use a soft bristled brush, and don’t brush too hard! Hold the brush at a 45 degree angle to your gums so that you’re really getting bristles into the gumline.
  • Flossing is essential every night. The same plaque that builds up on the surfaces of your teeth also builds up between them, and it needs to be eliminated nightly! Make sure to get between every pair of teeth and always get down to the gumline as well.
  • See us at our Rochester office every six months for regular cleanings and exams. There are places in your mouth that you simple can’t keep clean at home, and those are the spaces most vulnerable to gum disease. By seeing us every six months you can keep those spaces clean and healthy for life!

Good Dental Health Starts Now

If you take action to protect your teeth now you may never need to worry about gum disease. Even if it has already started to begin we can easily reverse it at Northwest Dental Group. Take control of your smile and your bodily health starting today!

Call our office at 507-216-6252 or request an appointment online. We look forward to seeing you soon!