People with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia might be at a higher risk of developing gum disease mainly because completing daily oral hygiene tasks become more difficult as the disease progresses.

However, new studies show that statement might hold true if phrased backwards: People with gum disease might be at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Why do scientists think this might be the case? Keep reading to find out more information about this fascinating new information.

The Link Between Alzheimer’s and Periodontal Disease

A recent study published in the journal Science Advances revealed a link between a bacteria commonly associated with gum disease and Alzheimer’s. The bacteria, P. gingivalis, was found in samples collected from the spinal fluid, saliva, and brain tissue of both living and deceased Alzheimer’s patients. In fact, of the 53 brain tissue samples that were studied, 96 percent of them showed evidence of P. gingivalis, with higher levels of the bacteria being associated with samples from patients with symptoms and pathology of Alzheimer’s. While periodontists already know that the health of the gums affects the health of the entire body, this research shows that bacteria caused by gum disease can and does make its way into the brain.

But the research doesn’t stop there. A professor of periodontology at the University of California, San Francisco, made an interesting note about this study. He states that the bacteria associated with gum disease P. gingivalis, can increase the production of amyloid beta, a component of amyloid plaques — a clump of proteins that can deteriorate the connection between nerve cells. Amyloid plaques are directly associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease. While more research is needed to confirm if there is a direct link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s, this study should serve as an important reminder to take your oral health seriously.

How To Prevent Gum Disease

Brush your teeth twice per day with a soft-bristled toothbrush.

While a hard-bristled brush might seem like it is cleaning your teeth better, it might actually be doing more harm than good. Hard, stiff bristles can cause wear and tear on your gums, making them susceptible to bacterial infections and gum disease. If you think that a soft brush isn’t cleaning well enough or you have trouble brushing effectively for two minutes twice per day, consider investing in a high-quality electric toothbrush. Your dentist can recommend brands at your next appointment.

Don’t forget to floss.

Flossing is incredibly important for preventing gum disease because it cleans where your toothbrush cannot reach. Floss at least once per day to remove food from between the teeth. If left in there, food particles can begin to rot and feed bacteria that causes periodontal disease.

Use mouthwash.

Mouthwash is a great follow up to brushing and flossing as it can rinse away any remaining food particles, plaque, or sugar that is on your teeth or in your mouth.

Mitigate risk.

Just like most diseases, there are certain things that can increase your risk of periodontal disease. Older adults are more likely to develop gum disease and should be vigilant about their oral health as they age. Smoking is also a leading risk factor of gum disease, as is heavy alcohol consumption. If you are over the age of 50, smoke cigarettes, or consume other tobacco products, or drink alcohol regularly, talk to your dentist about a periodontitis prevention plan.

Know The Signs Of Periodontal Disease

Gum disease is often not detected until it is in an advanced stage. However, early detection is key to stopping it in its tracks. Look out for gum disease symptoms like swollen or painful gums, bleeding while brushing or flossing, loose teeth, changes in the way your teeth fit together, mouth sores, chronic bad breath, or other unusual changes in your mouth. If you notice any of the signs, get in touch with Dr. Port, our on-site periodontologist, who can provide you with experienced care.

Get Treatment For Gum Disease

It is important to remember that nobody is immune to gum disease, and the onset of gum disease can occur at any age. Regular dental checkups, usually every six months or more frequently if your dentist suggests it, are the best way to catch gum disease early and stop the progression of the disease while there is still time.

The study discussed in this blog is just another reason to schedule a visit to your periodontist or general dentist as soon as possible, especially if you are already at an increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Get in touch with any of our three dental offices in Jackson, Eatontown, or Pine Beach today to schedule an examination with your dentist and discuss any concerns you have about developing periodontal disease or the link between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s.