Gum Disease Implicated in a Higher Risk of Developing Alzheimer's
A recent study has found that people suffering from gum disease for 10 or more years are 70% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. For this particular study researcher's looked at more than 25,000 people to assess whether those aged 50 or older. All of them had chronic periodontitis or severe gum disease was at increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s important to point out that the study didn’t find any direct causal link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease. They did find that people with chronic gum disease were up to 70% more likely to go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease. The link between good dental health and good general health has been far more closely examined over the past few years.
It’s become increasingly obvious that everyone needs to pay attention to their dental health. This is if they want to avoid developing many common diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
What is the Connection Between Gum Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease?
This isn’t the first study by any means to find a possible connection between dementia and gum disease. Just a few years ago researchers examined donated brain samples from people diagnosed with dementia and people who did not have dementia. They tested 10 brain samples of people with dementia. In four of the samples, they found a bacterium called Porphyromonas gingivalis and which is known to cause gum disease.
When you have gum disease one of the problems it causes is bleeding gums which allows the bacteria in your mouth to enter your bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, these bacteria can travel anywhere in the body which includes the brain. Researchers think that when the brain is repeatedly exposed to these bacteria then it creates an immune response. This may over time lead to nerve cell death and quite possibly to a loss of memory.
Nowadays many dentists are trying to raise patient awareness of the connections between poor oral health and general health. This is to encourage better dental health and to increase preventative dental care. Unfortunately, the link between poor general health and poor dental health is almost always gum disease. What’s worse is that most adults will develop some form of gum disease at some point during their lifetime.
Despite the bad news, there is some really good news and that is that gum disease is preventable and it can be treated. However, it’s much easier to treat when caught early on as when gum disease is well advanced it is generally chronic. This means while dentists can still treat gum disease it’s no longer curable. Instead, treatment focuses on controlling the disease and preventing it from worsening.
This is while hopefully preventing too many adverse effects on your general health.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an infection caused by bacteria in the mouth and it’s mostly due to poor oral hygiene. When you brush and floss regularly, most of the disease-causing bacteria in your mouth are removed, meaning your risk of developing gum disease is low. However, if you fail to brush and floss regularly, your risk of developing gum disease is substantially higher. By this dental care professionals mean brushing at least twice a day and flossing once a day.
It doesn’t take very long for bacteria to build up in the mouth and they are contained in a sticky layer of plaque that will gradually coat your teeth. When you brush and floss this layer of plaque is removed. If it isn’t then it soon hardens into calculus, something that can only be removed during a regular scale and polish. All the time calculus and plaque remain on your teeth and gums, it produces toxins.
These toxins infect your gums which prompts an inflammatory response from your body as it tries to fight this infection. The resulting inflammation causes your gums to become swollen, red and tender to touch. As the infection worsens, the gums will begin to bleed. If you do notice blood on your toothbrush or in the sink after brushing, you should always get in touch with your dentist because normal healthy gums should not bleed.
This early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis and the good news is that it’s reversible but only if you get prompt treatment from your dentist. Gingivitis is often treated by simply having your teeth professionally cleaned and by improving your oral hygiene routine. Failing to get treatment at this stage allows gingivitis to develop into periodontitis.
What Happens When Gingivitis Becomes Periodontitis?
By this time the disease is much more serious and requires more specialized dental care. Although your general dentist may be able to provide treatment, it’s likely they may refer you to a periodontist who specializes in gum disease. By this stage, the infection is likely to have destroyed your gums and as a result, they will have begun to recede from your teeth.
The bacteria in your gums will have begun to infect the other tissues surrounding your teeth which include your jawbone. In severe periodontitis, this jawbone can be destroyed, loosening teeth until eventually, they fall out. A periodontist can provide specialized treatments to help restore some of these damaged tissues and to prevent further progression of this disease. Whenever possible they will try to save teeth loosened by periodontitis.
However, it’s much better if you can avoid developing gum disease in the first place.
Simple Ways to Help Keep Your Gums Strong and Healthy
Good gum health is really quite straightforward and it’s certainly a lot more cost-effective than having to deal with the consequences of advanced periodontitis. At the same time, good gum health will help protect your general health. To keep your gums healthy, you must visit your general dentist at regular intervals, usually every six months. These visits are vital for allowing your dentist to fully assess your dental health including your gum health.
They are trained to pick up any early signs of gum disease and can provide suitable treatments. Whenever you visit your dentist don’t forget to visit the hygienist at the same time they can professionally clean your teeth. Regularly removing calculus is an easy way to help prevent gum disease. In between visits, it’s essential to regularly brush and floss.
You’ll also find your hygienist can give you advice and practical help if your brushing and flossing routine isn’t up to scratch. By knowing how to brush and floss properly, you can maintain good gum health by spending just a few minutes each day on your oral care routine.