Gum disease can cause many problems with your dental health; not only that, but most recent studies link gum disease with Alzheimer’s Disease.
The mouth, whether you want to think about it or not, is filled with harmful bacteria along with healthy protective bacteria. New studies show that those with more harmful gum bacteria than healthy gum bacteria are prone to have a protein marker leading to Alzheimer’s Disease. This protein marker is known as amyloid-beta.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s Disease is a brain disorder that affects your memory, thinking, and behavior. It is currently estimated that more than 6 million individuals over the age of 65 are living with Alzheimer’s in the United States alone.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive disease that begins to affect your day-to-day life over time. It is the 6th leading cause in the United States alone.
Scientists continue to investigate Alzheimer’s Disease and how it affects the brain. Researchers believe that Alzheimer’s Disease develops about ten years before symptoms are seen. Abnormal buildups of proteins form amyloid plaques and tangles.
The healthy neurons stop functioning and lose connections with the other neurons as this occurs. These cause the healthy neurons to die. The brain parts begin to shrink, and the damage spreads throughout the brain.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive disease. The symptoms will worsen over time. These symptoms appear gradually over months and years. Some symptoms include the following:
- Memory loss
- Repeating questions multiple times
- Losing objects
- Forgetting appointments and important events
- Cognitive Impairments
- Judgment impairments
- Difficulty paying bills
- Difficulty with decisions
- Difficulty doing tasks with multiple steps like getting dressed or cooking.
- Impairments related to recognition of faces/familiar places.
- Problems with spatial awareness
- Problems speaking, reading, or writing
- Personality changes.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease encompasses all inflammation and damage in your gums caused by harmful mouth bacteria. It ranges from gingivitis to advanced periodontal disease, leading to tooth and bone loss.
Signs of Gingivitis
The signs of gingivitis include
- sore gums
- redness of the gumline
- Some blood while flossing.
If left untreated, it can cause gum disease.
Signs of Gum Disease
Some signs of gum disease include the following:
- Bad breath
- Red / purple gums
- Swollen gums
- Gums that are tender to the touch
- Irritated gums
- Bleeding after you floss
- Pink color on the toothbrush after brushing
- Receding gums
- Mouth sores
The link between periodontitis and Alzheimer’s
A study was conducted by a group of 26 researchers who specialize in Alzheimer’s Disease and periodontal Disease. They analyzed the brain tissue, spinal fluid, and saliva of 53 living and deceased individuals who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. 96% of the tissue samples came back with higher levels of gingipains.
What Does this Mean?
Let’s take a look at how Alzheimer’s Disease affects the brain. When the brain is functioning properly, the neurons in your brain contain microtubules. They help with cell support and function. Your brain also has another protein called tau. This attaches to these microtubules and helps stabilize them.
With those living with Alzheimer’s Disease, the tau protein molecules detach from the microtubules and clump together. This affects how the brain functions.
The above study determined that the gingipains related to gum disease negatively affect the tau proteins and were found to be “neurotoxic.” Basically, in terms we can all understand, the gingipains were catalysts in the proper function of the tau. This result set off an immune reactivity response and led to progressive dementia.
The above study proved a link between Alzheimer’s Disease and gum disease. Researchers have found some promise with a gingipain inhibitor during this same study.
How to Prevent Gum Disease?
Research continues to be ongoing to test Alzheimer’s Disease linked to gum disease. While this research continues to be done, we can do our part to catch gum disease early before it leads to poor dental health, brain damage, and overall poor health.
The dentist has tools available to help reverse early gum disease, but once gum disease advances to the level of periodontal disease, then it can’t be reversed. Making sure you take care of your gums and have regular cleanings is so important.
Through taking care of your dental hygiene, you can help prevent gum disease or further damage of gum disease by lowering your risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline?
Good oral health is just one thing you can do to help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. There are multiple risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s Disease. In addition to good oral health, you can do many other things to lower your risk of developing dementia. These include:
- Healthy diet
- Stay active through exercise
- Get enough sleep
- Stay socially active
- Keep your mind active
- Avoid smoking
- Avoid excessive use of alcohol
Should I be Worried About Alzheimer’s if I Have Gum Disease?
While this new study might spark a little concern if you are living with gum disease, it does not mean that you will develop Alzheimer’s Disease. Some experts are saying to use caution with this new study because it is not conclusive yet. Researchers need more research to understand how the two are directly related.
What should I do to Protect Myself?
While more studies need to be done on the connection between Alzheimer’s and gum disease, one thing remains clear: Your gum health is important and should be treated. Brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and going to your regular dental appointments, can help fight off gum disease. Avoiding tobacco and sugary foods can also help.
If you think you are living with Alzheimer’s Disease or you may be living with gum disease, you will want to make an appointment with your healthcare provider. They can help you with the treatment you need if you are living with either one of these diseases to help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease.