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Gum Disease, Alzheimer's Disease May Be Linked

People with poor oral hygiene or gum disease may be at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a recent studies published online. (See the full article on Dentistry IQ)

All countries are experiencing an increase in the number of people over the age of 65. In the US, changing demographics suggest a much higher number of elderly in the population. 

Periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) are chronic conditions that commonly affect the elderly. Numerous cross sectional studies address the oral health status of individuals with AD and dementia.

Overall, evidence indicates that Alzheimer’s patients exhibit poor oral health, including increased plaque, bleeding, and calculus than age- and gender-matched controls.  While it is true that Alzheimer’s patients may be unable to adequately perform oral hygiene measures, thereby facilitating the development of periodontal disease,  a potential exists for a bi-directional relationship.  Researchers are now investigating the role of poor oral health and periodontal disease in the development of AD.

Bacteria can enter the bloodstream through everyday activities such as eating, chewing and tooth brushing. Once in the bloodstream, the bacteria can be carried to other parts of the body. Could oral pathogens also infect the brain with subsequent neuropathological consequences?  Additionally, could the bacteremia responsible for this neuropathology be the result of chronic periodontal disease?

The researchers hypothesized that when the bacteria reach the brain, they may trigger an immune response (like they do in the mouth), which in turn results in the killing of brain cells. This immune response could be the catalyst that leads to changes in the brain, which is typical in Alzheimer’s disease. It could play a role in causing symptoms such as confusion and deterioration of memory. This new research indicates a possible link between gum disease and those who display the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and certain types of dementia. 

Recently much research has examined potential associations between oral and systemic diseases, but few studies have investigated a potential link between oral disease and AD or dementia. AD is a significant health problem that will likely become even greater as the population ages. It is established that AD contributes to deterioration in oral health.  Some studies suggest that oral disease contributes to AD or cognitive impairment.   However, data supporting a bi-directional association is limited, and it is currently unclear which occurs first, oral disease or AD. It is possible that the lines are blurred and that each disease contributes to the other.

What this means is that the current research on this matter indicates that while all AD victims don’t have periodontal disease, some AD victims may have gum disease to blame for their condition or have had their condition sped along it’s way because of it.

Today, gum disease can be routed by laser periodontal treatment or LANAP which is relatively painless because it involves no cutting of gum tissue and no recovery time. You should become aware of the symptoms of periodontitis and make sure that your gums are checked every time you go for a dental exam or cleaning. Catching it early, before permanent damage is done or complications elsewhere in your body, is done is very important.

If you have not had an exam for periodontal disease done recently, give us a call and schedule an appointment today. We look forward to meeting you.

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Meet Dr. Gregory

Dr. Holly J. Gregory practices a full scope of periodontics with expertise ranging from dental implants to laser periodontal treatments, gum grafting, and Dr. Gregory can correct a wide variety of periodontal (gum) disease.
Our office is located at 19502 McKay Blvd., Suite 202, Humble, TX 77338. Call us today at (281) 816-4707.

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