Your oral health affects more than just your teeth.
Your mouth is a breeding ground for almost 700 different types of bacteria. Some of them lead to complications like periodontal (gum) disease, which is bad enough. But recent studies have shown that some of the bacteria that cause gum disease have been linked to the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
How does poor oral health contribute to Alzheimer’s and dementia?
When you think of bacteria, you probably have a negative image in your mind, but that’s not entirely accurate. Some of it can be good. Studies have shown that people who have more harmful than healthy bacteria have a higher chance of developing degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
If you’ve had gum disease for 10 or more years, your risk of developing a degenerative disease doubles. There is a type of bacteria called Porphyromonas Gingivalis associated with gum disease that has been found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Once the bacteria reaches the brain, it releases enzymes called gingipains that destroy nerve cells, which can lead to memory loss and Alzheimer’s.
In one study, researchers examined 59 people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. The patients who had gum disease declined in memory ability six times faster than patients with healthy gums, proving that there is a connection between oral health and cognitive abilities.
If I have gum disease, does that mean I’ll automatically get Alzheimer’s or dementia?
While all of this research is important and revolutionary, it must be understood in context. Just because you have gum disease does not mean that you’ll get Alzheimer’s or dementia. These degenerative diseases are linked to other diseases and conditions, including Herpes type 1, Down’s syndrome, complications from cardiovascular disease, and severe head injuries.
How can I keep my gums healthy?
The best way to keep your gums healthy is to schedule regular appointments with your dentist. They can identify problem areas and treat them or give you solutions to manage gum disease. Dr. Andrea Stevens is a Kanata-based dentist who will do whatever she can to keep your gums and teeth healthy.