Does gum disease affect your brain?

That is the question many researchers of Alzheimer ’s disease are currently asking. As they continue searching for causes of this devastating disease, new studies are published on a pretty regular basis. One recent study is getting a lot of attention because the results suggest a link between gum disease and Alzheimer ’s disease.

DISCLAIMER: Alzheimer’s is a very complicated disease and may have multiple causes and risk factors. Researchers caution against drawing too many conclusions from the currently published studies.  There is not enough evidence available to say that one thing does or does not cause this disease. They simply show a possible link between the two diseases.

What is the Link?

3D model of bacteria in plaque
There is some evidence of a link between plaque and Alzheimer’s disease.

This new study is suggesting a link between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s because of a specific type of bacteria. In the study, researchers examined brain tissue from deceased people with Alzheimer’s disease, and they found the bacteria, Porphyromonas gingivalis. Commonly referred to as “p.g.”, this bacterium is one of the big bugs responsible for serious gum disease. After finding this bug in the brain of deceased Alzheimer’s patients, they decided to look into living patients, and they did find the bacteria’s DNA in their spinal fluid.

What Other Risk Factors Contribute to Alzheimer’s?

Other studies found links between other types of infections (bacterial and viral) and Alzheimer’s disease. The research implies that as these “bugs” reach the brain, the brain attempts to wall them off in a protective response. These walls, or plaques, can disrupt brain function when there are multiple or large ones.

Some scientific research studies link chronic inflammation in the body with a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease. This means that people who suffer from chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and severe gum disease, may have a higher risk for Alzheimer’s.

What Can I Do About it?

Patient in dentist office having teeth cleaned
Consistent professional cleaning are key to removing plaque.

As we stated earlier, none of these studies definitely states that if you have gum disease, you will probably get Alzheimer’s. However, the evidence gives us more motivation to keep our gums as healthy as possible! Here are the things you can do to fight chronic gum disease.

  1. See your dentist for consistent dental evaluations and professional teeth cleanings.
  2. Commit to great oral hygiene by brushing twice a day and flossing every night before bed. Adding the right mouthwash can help reduce the bacteria that cause gum disease.
  3. Know your risk! Some people have a higher risk for gum disease due to a genetic predisposition or a systemic condition like diabetes. If you are higher risk, you must be even more diligent at fighting it!

More Questions about Your Risk for Gum Disease and How it Could Affect Your Health?

Call to schedule a consultation with our doctors today. We can answer any question about your specific risk factors and how that can affect your overall health for the rest of your life!