Gum Disease and Alzheimer’s – Everything You Need to Know

Studies show a link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s development in older adults.

Did you know that people suffering from gum disease for 10 years or more are 70% more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease at some point in their lives?

A study by Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy that closely studied 25,000 patients over 50 years old with chronic gum disease conclusively established close, though not direct, links between long-standing gum disease and Alzheimer’s.

The Oral Health Foundation echoed the same, recognizing the close ties between oral and general health. This organization believes that we can improve our overall health by paying close attention to our oral health and hygiene.

What Causes Gum Disease?

Poor brushing habits lead to the formation of a sticky plaque on the teeth that thickens and hardens. Plaque starts as a thin film of bacteria that eventually hardens to become tartar. Gum disease breaks down into two types:

  • Gingivitis – This occurs when plaque and tartar irritate the gum line leading to bleeding and information.
  • Periodontitis – This occurs when the build-up of plaque and tartar forms pockets between the gums and teeth. These pockets harbor more bacteria leading to a severe form of gum disease that we call periodontitis.

What Causes Alzheimer’s Disease?

Brain cells form connections called synapses to communicate amongst themselves. Alzheimer’s is when the brain cells degenerate starting from their synapses and eventually die off completely. This leads to memory loss, confusion, and loss of cognitive functions.

What’s in the Study?

The study premised on the comparison of brain tissue of people with and without Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists found higher levels of a bacteria known as Porphyromonas gingivalis that secretes gingipains. Gingipains is a toxic enzyme that destroys neurons. The scientists also discovered tiny amounts of gum bacteria known to exacerbate Alzheimer’s disease.

Does Having Gum Disease Mean I’ll Automatically Develop Alzheimer’s?

It seems that there is a link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s development in older adults, but that doesn’t mean that having gum disease automatically gets you Alzheimer’s. A lot more research is needed to establish the cause-and-effect relationship between the two conditions.

How Do I Keep Gum Disease at Bay?

Here’s what you need to do if you want to keep gum disease and, by extension, Alzheimer’s at bay:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice every day to remove plaque that causes gum disease. Remember to brush along the gum line for the greatest effect.
  • Floss regularly to get rid of any plaque in between your teeth.
  • Avoid tobacco, sugary foods, and drinks because they promote the proliferation of gum bacteria.
  • Arrange regular dental visits.

Contact the Dental Anesthesia Center

Schedule an appointment with the Dental Anesthesia Center today if you suspect any signs of plaque or tartar build-up on your teeth. That way, you can protect your overall health and have a perfect set of pearly whites.

Call Us Today

The only board-certified dental anesthesiologist in Missouri, including St. Louis.

Updated: August 31, 2023

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