You may be losing more than your teeth.

Did you know that people with poor oral hygiene and gum disease are at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published online in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease!

Recently, researchers in England examined brain tissue samples donated by 10 patients without dementia and 10 patients with dementia.

What they found was astounding: Aggressive Gum disease bacteria surface components were found in 4 of the people with dementia and none of the people who did not have dementia.  Bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream through everyday activities such as eating, chewing and toothbrushing. Once in the bloodstream, the bacteria can be carried to other parts of the body such as the heart, lungs and now we suspect it gets to the brain too.

Researchers hypothesize that when the periodontal bacteria reach the brain, they trigger an immune system response killing brain cells. The inflammatory immune response could be one mechanism that leads to the irreversible changes in the brain. Swollen and bleeding gums are signs of inflammation in the mouth.

Now studies are underway to show whether poor dental hygiene can lead to dementia in otherwise healthy people and is it possible that these bad bacteria can make Alzheimer’s patients worse if not treated.

This was a small study examining only brain tissue samples from only 20 people. More research is needed to determine whether or not having gum disease increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

What can you do to avoid this?

Have your periodontist do a comprehensive examination at least 1x a year, maintain good home care and have cleanings at least 2x a year. If you have already been diagnosed with a periodontal disease you are more at risk for recurrence and should be seen for cleanings at least every 3-4 months.

At Periodontal Health Partners we are all about restoring wellness.

With health in mind,

Dr. Mary Ann Lester

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