Maintaining great oral health is more important than you might think. Existing research shows a relationship between gum disease and other serious health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and strokes. Now, a new study has emerged with additional evidence to support the link between periodontitis and an incurable, progressive disease: Alzheimer’s.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is an infection that occurs in the gum tissue. Also called gum disease, it is characterized by plaque and tartar buildup, inflammation, and the formation of small pockets between the teeth and gums. According to the American Dental Association, chronic, advanced gum disease affects 42.2% of adults.
Gum disease is preventable and treatable. Biannual teeth cleanings lower your risk of developing periodontitis by removing the plaque and tartar that brushing leaves behind. Meanwhile, treating the disease typically involves deeper cleanings at more frequent intervals. Without treatment, gum disease can lead to tooth loss, jawbone loss, and, as studies are revealing, a potential host of other concerns beyond the mouth.
How Gum Disease is Thought to Affect Overall Health
There are several ways that periodontitis can possibly affect the health of other areas of the body. One tie is harmful oral bacteria, which has the potential to travel beyond the mouth and into the bloodstream. Many experts suggest that these bacteria may have the potential to contribute to disease in other parts of the body, though more studies are needed to know for sure.
Beyond bacteria, another connecting factor is inflammation. Inflammation is part of the healing response, though too much inflammation can have adverse effects. As gum disease is the most common chronic inflammatory disease, it is thought that the constant, even overactive, immune response by the body is what may have a hand in the development of systemic health conditions.
In short, there are explicit links between poor oral health and other issues. However, researchers are still working to establish cause and effect.
The Latest Gum Disease and Alzheimer’s Study
A study, published in the journal Science Advances, established a new link between a bacterium associated with gum disease and Alzheimer’s. Surprisingly, scientists involved in the study found evidence of this bacterium in the brain tissue of people with Alzheimer’s.
Additionally, they discovered enzymes produced by the bacterium that are thought to have a connection to Alzheimer’s development. The authors of the study wrote that the presence of these things in the brain “play a central role in the pathogenesis [manner of development] of AD [Alzheimer's disease].”
While we don’t yet know if taking care of your oral health can help prevent Alzheimer’s, doing so is undeniably crucial to healthy aging. One day, experts may definitively say that staying ahead of gum disease is part of preventing health concerns such as Alzheimer’s.
Schedule Your Ardmore Dental Cleaning
If it’s been longer than six months since your last appointment or you’re experiencing gum inflammation, call us at 610-642-7024. Experienced dentist Dr. Jeffrey Bellisario serves Ardmore, Bryn Mawr, Newtown Square, and the surrounding areas of Pennsylvania.