Connections Between Alzheimer’s and Periodontal Disease

A study conducted by NYU dental researchers in 2010 determined that the presence of gum disease can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The team examined over 20 years of data and research on 152 elderly subjects. The findings indicated that subjects who exhibited gum inflammation at the beginning of the study were nine times more likely to score lower on cognitive tests than their counterparts who had no inflammation. By highlighting the connections between periodontal disease and cognitive decline, the study also emphasizes the systemic benefits of maintaining good periodontal health.

Both involve plaque development.

Dental plaque consists of oral bacteria, food particles, and saliva. When they collect along your gum line, bacteria release toxins that irritate gum tissues and trigger your immune system’s inflammatory response. Although not as well-known, your brain develops plaque, as well. In the case of brain plaque, a protein called amyloid beta, which is typically released from the brain into the bloodstream, is prohibited from exiting the brain. As the protein builds up and forms plaque, brain cells begin to die, which experts believe is a leading cause for the cognitive decline leading up to Alzheimer’s disease.

Both involve inflammation.

While bacterial infection may be the start of gum disease, it is the resulting inflammation that lends the disease its destructive power. When your body detects foreign biological agents, your immune system activates white blood cells to fight the infection, which causes inflammation. When inflammation affects the brain, it inhibits the mechanism that allows amyloid beta protein to exit the brain and enter the bloodstream. This finding has led to an increased interest in treating Alzheimer’s disease patients with anti-inflammatory medication to help protect against cognitive degradation.

Both are incurable.

If caught in its earliest stage (gingivitis), periodontal disease can be treated and reversed before serious damage occurs. If the disease progresses past the first stage and begins to destroy your gums’ connective tissues, it is no longer reversible, though it is still highly treatable and controllable. Alzheimer’s disease, which is terminal, also has no cure. While researchers continue to explore ways to accurately diagnose and treat it, there are medications that can slow the progression of the disease or improve some symptoms.

Learn More About Improving Your Oral and Overall Health

Taking good care of your oral and periodontal health can have profound benefits on your overall wellbeing, including reducing your risks of chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. To learn more, schedule a consultation with Dr. Kania by calling her periodontal office in Encinitas/San Diego, CA, at (760) 642-0711.