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Oral Health and Alzheimer’s: Your Dentist Explains the Connection

November 15, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — drjones @ 3:44 pm

The human body is an intricate machine, full of connections that modern scientists are still struggling to understand. In fact, one doctor once stated, “Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.” He was referring to the human brain. The precious organ in our heads is the center of what we feel, think, and perceive. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s disease can drastically affect the way the brain works. While various factors can contribute to the development of this troubling condition, poor oral health is one that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Your dentist in Vero Beach is here to discuss this issue.

Gum Disease and Alzheimer’s — A Frightening Correlation

In 2010, a team from New York University reviewed 20 years of data and reached the conclusion that people with gum inflammation are much more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease than people who have healthy gums.

However, the data they considered only included 152 subjects, which is a relatively small sample size. It seemed that further investigation was needed before it could be said without a doubt that there is a link between gum problems and Alzheimer’s.

In 2013, researchers in the UK looked into the matter and confirmed the findings from the earlier study. They compared brain samples from 10 individuals with Alzheimer’s and 10 without. In the patients with Alzheimer’s, they found a type of bacteria (P. gingivalis) that that is most commonly associated with chronic gum disease.

But How Does Gum Disease Lead to Alzheimer’s?

There are three different types of bacteria that can cause gum disease, and two of them are motile (capable of motion). They can sneak into the nerves that connect the tooth roots and the brain. They may also reach the thinking organ through the normal blood circulation process.

Many types of bacteria that hitch a ride on red blood cells are removed in the spleen, but P. gingivalis doesn’t do that. It hangs on until it reaches the brain, where there are fewer immune system checkpoints. The brain does, however, have an immune response to the bacteria. Unfortunately, that response has the side effect of damaging neurons that help with memory.

Older people are particularly at risk because their blood vessels are “leaky,” meaning that it is easier for the bacteria to sneak into their system and contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

Perhaps one of the best ways to protect your long-term mental health is through good oral hygiene. By brushing and flossing daily, you can stave off the bacteria that lead to gum disease. Despite your best efforts, though, you might still develop the condition, perhaps because of genetics or other factors. That’s why you should visit your Vero Beach dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups. They can check for gum disease and recommend a treatment that will, hopefully, stop the problem in its tracks.

Your brain is awesome! By keeping a clean mouth, you can protect that precious and complex organ in your head.

About Our Practice

The team at Vero Implant and Esthetic Dentistry is passionate about helping people have beautiful, healthy smiles — and they want to protect your brain, too! If it’s time for your next cleaning and checkup, please contact our office at 772-234-5353.

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