As technology advances and our understanding of various diseases and ailments become more enlightened, connections are made that were previously unknown. One such connection was found when the New York University College of Dentistry research discovered evidence that long-term periodontal disease could very well increase the risk of brain inflammation, neurodegeneration, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.
Alzheimer’s is believed to be caused by a combination of age-related changes in the brain including:
- Genetic Factors
- Environmental Factors
- Lifestyle Factors
It’s also believed to be caused by the abnormal build-up of certain proteins in and around brain cells.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums that can destroy the bone supporting your teeth. Periodontal disease is often caused by plaque, a sticky film of food debris, bacteria, and saliva. If plaque isn’t removed through daily brushing and flossing, it turns into tartar (calculus). Once tartar forms on your teeth, only a professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove it.
Exploring the Link Between Gum Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease
The research team conducting the study evaluated 20 years of data and found indications of a potential link between gun disease and Alzheimer’s.
Lead researcher Dr. Angela Kamer said, “The research suggests that cognitively normal subjects with periodontal inflammation are at an increased risk of lower cognitive function compared to cognitively normal subjects with little or no periodontal inflammation.
In addition, Dr. Kamer discovered that subjects around 70 years of age with periodontal disease were up to nine times more likely to test in the lower range on standardized tests in comparison to subjects of the same age with healthy gum tissue.
Other studies have found that individuals with Alzheimer’s are more likely to have periodontal disease than those individuals without Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, yet another study found that those individuals living with gum disease tend to have increased problems with memory and greater cognitive decline.
While the exact relationship between the two diseases is unknown, it is possible that the inflammation caused by periodontal disease is a contributing factor to the development of Alzheimer’s. In addition, the bacteria that cause periodontal disease can enter the bloodstream and travel to the brain where they can contribute to issues including Alzheimer’s.
More research is needed to explore this link, but current evidence suggests there could very well be a connection between the two. If you have gum disease, it’s important to see your dentist regularly for treatment.
Treating Gum Disease
The best course of action when it comes to gum disease is prevention. However, this isn’t always possible. Your best second line of defense is regular dental visits every six months.
If you have gum disease, there are a number of treatment options available. The goal of treatment is to reduce the inflammation in your gums and to remove the bacteria that cause periodontal disease.
Treatment for gum disease may include:
- Scaling and Root Planing: This is a deep cleaning procedure that removes plaque and tartar from your teeth and roots.
- Antibiotics: These can be used to kill the bacteria that cause periodontal disease. They may be given as a pill, mouthwash, or gel.
- Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat gum disease. Surgery can involve grafting tissue, removing diseased tissue, or placing a bone graft.
If you have gum disease, it’s important to see your dentist regularly for treatment. Gum disease is a serious condition that can lead to tooth loss and other health problems, so it’s important to get the proper treatment.
Get on the Path to Better Oral Health
It’s becoming more evident that periodontal disease plays a bigger role in our overall health than we realized. This is why it’s more important than ever to practice good oral health habits and see your dentist regularly for cleanings and routine exams.