According to the Alzheimer’s Association, nearly 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, a number that is expected to reach 14 million by the year 2050. Researchers have long strived to better understand this degenerative brain disease in an effort to develop a cure – and recently hit upon a surprising scientific breakthrough. New research has revealed a possible link between oral health and mental health, which could lead to new pathways to prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Curious to know more about the cause of Alzheimer’s in Memorial? Keep reading below.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is a common condition in which gums become swollen, sore and infected and may bleed when brushing or flossing. Also known as periodontal disease, it is caused by the bacteria in plaque and can lead to serious dental problems – including tooth loss – if allowed to progress to advanced stages.
Common symptoms of gum disease include:
- Bleeding gums, especially when brushing
- Swollen and tender gums
- Receding gums
- Constant bad breath, even after brushing
- Sensitive teeth
- Loose teeth
How Are Gum Disease and Alzheimer’s Linked?
New research linking gum disease to Alzheimer’s disease underlines the importance of maintaining a healthy mouth and the risk of not practicing proper oral hygiene.
Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is most often diagnosed in individuals over the age of 65. Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s include:
- Short-term memory loss
Recently, research teams at several higher education institutions and a pharmaceutical firm have discovered that P. gingivalis, the main bacterium involved in gum disease, invades and inflames the regions of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s and may worsen symptoms of the disease.
The scientists believe that the gum inflammation caused by gum disease allows P. gingivalis and other oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream and reach vital organs, including the brain.
While this promising research was conducted using mice, the findings carry implications for the oral and mental health of humans and highlight the importance of preventing gum disease.
How to Prevent Gum Disease
Fortunately, gum disease can often be treated and reversed if caught in the early stages. Therefore, visiting the dentist every six months for a routine dental exam and cleaning is critical to preventing gum disease from developing or worsening.
During each routine dental exam, your dentist will:
- Examine your gums for any signs of inflammation
- Measure any pockets around the teeth to see if they are at a healthy depth
- Expertly remove harmful plaque and tartar
- Discuss your medical history with you to identify any risk factors (such as smoking) that can contribute to gum disease
A healthy mouth is an important piece of a healthy body – and a healthy mind! Talk to a dentist in Memorial today for more information about gum disease and preventive oral care tips.
About the Author
With over 35 years of experience, Dr. Mark Gray understands the important connections between oral health and overall health. Since graduating, he has been an active member in the Spear Education Group and the Memorial chapter of the Seattle Study Club in order to stay up to date on the latest advances in dental technology, techniques and knowledge. Patients old and new can contact Dr. Gray via his website or by calling 281-493-9395.