The Alzheimer’s Oral Health Connection
Alzheimer’s is a scary disease that has gained more visibility over the years. As more and more people become aware of this disease more and more research is being funded. This has led to extensive investigation of the cause of the disease.
The logic is that if we know the cause of the disease we can take steps to prevent the disease by not doing what causes it. Pretty simple.
One of the most shocking discoveries we’ve seen in the last couple years is the link between Alzheimer’s and poor oral health, in particular periodontal disease. We’ve seen how research has linked periodontal disease with diabetes and heart disease, but new research now links it to Alzheimer’s disease.
That’s right; the disease that can make you forget your family and friends is now linked directly to your lifestyle and far beyond diet or exercise. Periodontal disease is inflammation of the gums that eventually evolves in infection and then decay. Over time a person will experience bone loss, tooth loss, and infection that usually needs to be surgically treated in later stages.
What’s the connection between Alzheimer’s and periodontal disease?
Your bloodstream is like a super highway to the rest of your body. As blood circulates through the body is touches all other organs at some point or another. This means that the same blood that moves through your kidneys also moves through your heart, lungs, brain, and all other systems.
While in a healthy individual this isn’t an issue, it becomes problematic in someone who is chronically ill. People who have periodontal disease have a persistent infection. As blood circulates the bacteria that are in your mouth get into your bloodstream and eventually make their way to your brain. Additionally, older individuals tend to have a blood brain barrier that is more susceptible to infection. As a result, microbes can more easily make their way into the brain and cause infection that ultimately leads to the development of Alzheimer’s.
What causes this disease?
Although the exact connection is still being investigated, the thought is that the bacteria leads to inflammation of the brain, which ultimately leads to the development of Alzheimer’s.
What about other infections?
Research has show that adults infected with HSV-1 (herpes simplex virus 1) and oral yeasts are also at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. These make it harder for the body to fight infection once they’re activated. Because about 70% of people 50 and older have HSV-1 it makes it more obvious that there’s a cause and effect present.
HSV and oral yeasts are known to cause inflammation, which is directly associated with Alzheimer’s. Patients who wear dentures can often develop denture stomatitis, a systemic fungal infection commonly found in Alzheimer’s patients.
While this all might sound like horrible news, there’s good news to be heard. You can eliminate this connection between these diseases by practicing good oral hygiene. Brush twice a day, floss once a day, and get in to see Dr. Tabb for a regular cleaning twice a year.