Preventing gum disease may prevent Alzheimer’s disease
How healthy are your gums? Poor oral hygiene or periodontal disease (aka gum disease), may put you at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. This news is according to a study published in the journals of Science Advances and the online publication of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Researchers with the studies have found that the bacteria that cause gingivitis may also be connected to Alzheimer’s disease. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream through everyday activities such as eating, chewing, and brushing teeth. Once in the bloodstream, the bacteria can be carried to other parts of the body, such as the brain.
A particular type of bacteria called Porphyromonas gingivalis, can move from the mouth to the brain. Once in the brain, the bacteria release enzymes called gingipains that can destroy nerve cells, which in turn, can lead to memory loss and eventually Alzheimer’s.
The researchers hypothesized that when the bacteria reach the brain, they may trigger an immune system response that kills brain cells. This immune response could be one mechanism that leads to changes in the brain, which is typical in Alzheimer’s disease. It could also play a role in causing symptoms such as confusion and deteriorating memory.
These two new studies indicate a possible association between gum disease and individuals who may be susceptible to developing Alzheimer’s disease, if exposed to the particular bacteria.
Protect yourself from gum disease
Besides Alzheimer’s disease, other research studies have suggested that periodontal disease may be connected to other diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Inflammation appears to be the link tying the possibility of periodontal disease and the other chronic diseases.
To avoid developing periodontal disease, it all begins with prevention. Fortunately, there are several steps you can practice daily to keep your gums and teeth as healthy as possible:
· Brush teeth after meals to remove food debris and plaque trapped between teeth and gums. Bacteria also like to adhere to your tongue so be sure to brush it also.
· Invest in an electric toothbrush. They will keep your teeth, gums and tongue cleaner and healthier and they provide more thorough brushing. In addition they are an excellent tool in fighting gingivitis and gum disease.
· Flossing teeth is a very important step in removing food particles and plaque along the gum line where your toothbrush may not be able to reach. Floss each time you brush your teeth.
· After brushing and flossing, use a mouthwash to further reduce plaque and remove any remaining food particles.
· There are certain risk factors that can increase your odds of developing periodontal disease, some which you can control, others you may not be able to – genetic predisposition to gum disease, chewing tobacco or smoking, not taking care of your teeth, having teeth misaligned or difficult to clean, being pregnant or diabetic, taking medications such as some types of oral contraceptives, calcium channel blockers, steroids, cancer medications, or anti-epilepsy drugs.
· Schedule regular visits to the dentist and get an annual comprehensive periodontal evaluation from a dental professional who can identify symptoms of gum disease early to protect your teeth and gums.
Dr. David B. Samadi is a Urologic Oncology Expert and Robotic Surgeon located at 485 Madison Avenue on the 21st floor, New York, NY – 212-365-5000. Follow Dr. Samadi at www.samadimd.com, www.prostatecancer911.com, and www.roboticoncology.com.