By itself, gum disease is one of the most destructive diseases that can affect your oral health. Most people are aware that the disease causes your gums to swell and bleed, but not as many people are aware of what happens beyond our immediate perception. Aside from potentially destroying your gum tissue and jawbone, as well as costing you one or more lost teeth, gum disease’s effects can manifest themselves in other parts of your body as well, including your brain. As part of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month this November, Encinitas periodontist Dr. Ann Kania explains how gum inflammation is linked to the cognitive degeneration associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Gum Disease and Inflammation
For a vastly destructive affliction, gum disease has quite modest beginnings. Most commonly, it begins with the bacteria that accumulate at your gumline in the form of dental plaque. These germs release toxins that irritate your gum tissue, causing your gums to separate and create pockets between your gums and teeth. More bacteria collect in these pockets, resting cozily as they continue to release toxins and aggravate your gums. These bacteria also incite your immune system’s inflammatory response to harmful invaders. Inflammation affects your gums from the beginning of the disease, and is often the telling sign of gingivitis (the first stage of gum disease). However, gingivitis does not typically generate physical discomfort, so the inflammation is often ignored. Unchecked, the disease will progressively grow worse as inflammation works to destroy your gums, the connective tissue that secures them to your teeth, and the jawbone that supports it all.
A Connection to Alzheimer’s Disease
At the NYU College of Dentistry, dental researchers uncovered the first long-term evidence that your risk for Alzheimer’s disease is significantly increased by gum disease. The team examined over 20 years of research and data involving periodontal (gum) health and cognitive dysfunction. The results suggest that patients who experienced trouble with their periodontal health were also more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than their counterparts who had perfectly healthy gums. Scientists are still learning about this connection. Both gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease are complex and most likely multi-factorial in onset and progression. It is safe to say that reducing the inflammation that results from gum disease is best for your immune system.
Invest in Your Oral and Mental Health
The importance of healthy teeth and gums has never been so clear. If you are in need of periodontal treatment, then contact Dr. Kania at our Encinitas periodontal care office by calling (706) 642-0711. We serve patients from Encinitas, San Diego, Rancho Santa Fe, Del Mar, La Costa, and the neighboring communities.