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February 23, 2019

Gum Disease and Alzheimer’s — A Dentist Examines the Connection

bryce @ 6:28 pm
thinking older woman

Over the years, science has provided us with a number of ways in which we can slow down or perhaps even prevent Alzheimer’s. For example, exercise, learning new things, eating a healthy diet, and fostering healthy relationships may all play a role in promoting long-term brain health. But did you know that maintaining healthy gums may also be pivotal in preventing Alzheimer’s? Your Potomac Falls Dentist, Dr Bryce, is here to discuss recent research that points to a strong connection between gum health and brain health.

Gum Disease as a Possible Cause of Alzheimer’s

For a long time, it has been known that gum disease is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. In mice who were genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer’s, the main bacteria involved in gum disease, P. Gingivalis, was shown to worsen symptoms and lead to increased brain inflammation. However, it was always unclear whether the gum disease actually caused the Alzheimer’s or merely contributed to it. Recent groundbreaking research has shed light on that subject.

A study that examined brain samples of people without Alzheimer’s found that many of them had P. Gingivalis in their brains. Along with the bacteria, they found accumulations of two proteins that lead to brain damage and cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients. Because these proteins can accumulate in the brain for years before symptoms begin, the research suggests that gum disease may actually cause Alzheimer’s rather than just make it worse.

Protect Your Gums, Protect Your Mind

Science still has a long way to go before it fully understands Alzheimer’s. In the meantime, however, it would be wise for everyone to seriously think about the state of their gums. Preventing gum disease — or managing it once it occurs — may be essential in preserving brain health. Therefore, you should:

  • Stick to a thorough oral hygiene routine. Twice-daily brushing and daily flossing can rid the mouth of the plaque and bacteria that lead to gum disease. An antibacterial mouth rinse may also help.
  • Eat healthful foods. Leafy greens, green tea, apples, and dairy products can all contribute to improved oral health. Do your best to avoid sugary, starchy foods.
  • Visit your dentist regularly. Thorough professional cleanings remove bacteria from your mouth. Advice from your hygienist can help you improve your at-home oral care routine.
  • Be on the lookout for symptoms. If your gums bleed easily or look red or swollen, you may be one of the millions of people who has gum disease. Schedule an appointment with your dentist so you can stop the condition before it has an opportunity to affect your brain health.

Your gums are more than just a frame for your smile — keeping them healthy may be an essential part of preserving your mental well-being.

About the Author

Dr. Robert Bryce is an accomplished dentist with over 30 years of experience in his field. Dr Bryce offers General Dentistry, Periodontal therapy, and is an instructor at The Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies. To learn more about the importance of gum health or to schedule your next checkup, contact our office at 571-223-6221. 

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