Dementia & Dentistry: Decoding the Connection

It may seem odd to hear your dentist in Sacramento talk about dementia. However, recent research suggests that your dentist may be the person to do just that. According to a study conducted by the National Institute on Aging, gum disease may play a key role in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Dissecting the Discovery

The truth is, we may be closer to finding the cause of Alzheimer’s than we’ve ever been, and your dentist in Sacramento may be more important in the prevention of Alzheimer’s than we ever thought. The discovery regarding how gum disease may cause Alzheimer’s takes a closer look at the bacteria that are often responsible for gum disease and how these bacteria then affect other areas of the body, including the brain. First, let’s examine gum disease. 

Gum Disease

Gum disease can be caused by any number of things, including poor oral hygiene, tobacco use, and even some medications. But essentially, gum disease occurs when a buildup of bacteria infect the gum tissues. If it’s not treated, gum disease can lead to eventual tooth loss, bad breath, and can even affect areas outside of the mouth, including the heart. 

While there are hundreds of bacteria in our mouths, not all of these bacteria are bad. However, some of them are, and it’s the bad ones that result in infection. There are several species of bad bacteria, but one in particular called Porphyromonas gingivalis can be especially bad and is at the heart of the National Institute on Aging’s study. 

The Study

Researchers spearheading the study examined over 6,000 participants and analyzed bacteria causing gum disease. Of the 19 bacteria analyzed, Porphyromonas gingivalis was the most common cause of gum disease. Alone that result may not mean much, but let’s take a look at what happens when that type of bacteria infects the body. The study showed that Porphyromonas gingivalis produced a byproduct called plaque of beta-amyloid protein. It just so happens that plaque of beta-amyloid protein is also one of the most indicators of Alzheimer’s Disease. 

The connection between gum disease and Alzheimer’s doesn’t end there. In fact, in another study from the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, brain tissue samples from dementia patients contained gum disease bacteria whereas brain tissue from non-dementia patients did not. 

Additional Research

While these two studies seem promising, more research is needed to actually conclude a connection between gum disease and Alzheimer’s. But in the meantime, your dentist in Sacramento believes in doing everything you can to prevent gum disease, including: 

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day
  • Flossing daily
  • Avoiding tobacco
  • Seeing your dentist twice a year

Taking care of your teeth and your gums can go a long way in protecting your overall health and preventing dental problems from occurring in the first place. If it’s been more than six months since you’ve seen a dentist, we welcome you to schedule an appointment today.