Alzheimer’s Risk Is Even More Reason for Maintaining Healthy Gums
If you have visited your dentist recently, they may have talked to you about the importance of having healthy gums. There is an increasing number of clinical studies into the link between poor gum health and the risk of poor overall health. One potential risk is Alzheimer’s disease. A recent study in the United States has discovered that long-term exposure to the bacteria which cause periodontal disease or gum disease, can result in the degeneration of brain neurons in mice. The degeneration is very similar to the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting that severe gum disease may be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
During the study, scientists discovered that mice with established, well-advanced gum disease, a condition called chronic periodontitis had significantly higher amounts of amyloid beta, a type of plaque found in the brain tissue of people with Alzheimer’s disease. The mice also had fewer intact neurons because of degeneration, and they had more brain inflammation. Interestingly, DNA from the bacteria causing chronic periodontitis was also found in the brain tissue of the mice. The study is significant because it shows how bacteria from the mouth can move to the brain. The concern is that periodontal disease may somehow boost the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that is estimated to account for between 60 to 80% of dementia cases. Most people who develop this condition are diagnosed after age 65, and unfortunately, there is no cure. The effects on the brain are degenerative, although some treatments may slow down the decline. Known risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease include your age, family history, and genetics. Now, it looks as if chronic periodontal disease may also be a factor.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease usually develops because of poor oral hygiene and is a bacterial infection in the mouth. Each day your teeth and gums are covered by a sticky biofilm called plaque and which contains the bacteria responsible for causing periodontal disease. These bacteria break down sugars in the mouth that are left over whenever you eat or drink something sweet or starchy. As they break down the sugars, the bacteria produce acid that weakens your tooth enamel and toxins that attack your gums. Your body will try to fight the infection, but its response produces inflammation in your gums.
What Are the First Signs of Gum Disease?
The first signs of gum disease are noticing your gums look puffy or red, and they may feel tender to touch. When you brush or floss, you could see blood on your toothbrush or in the bathroom sink, but some people think this is because they have brushed their teeth too hard. Although it is entirely possible to damage gums by brushing them too forcefully, it’s more likely that they are infected. At this stage, the solution isn’t to stop brushing or flossing, as instead, you should get in touch with your dentist or with a periodontist to get a proper gum evaluation. The early signs of gum infection are a disease called gingivitis which is usually reversible with prompt treatment. All too often people will ignore these early signs or will fail to notice them. At this stage, gingivitis can develop into severe periodontal disease a condition that is frequently chronic.
What Happens When Gum Disease Advances?
When gum disease worsens and becomes advanced, the effects on your gums are far more severe. By this stage you may notice your gums have begun to recede, making it look as if your teeth are longer. Your gums may start to pull away from your teeth, creating spaces or pockets that can become quite deep. These pockets, called periodontal pockets are tricky to keep clean but are the perfect environment for the bacteria that cause periodontal disease. As the infection gets worse, the bacteria will continue to destroy your gums. The infection will also start to damage the stretchy pieces of tissue holding your teeth in their sockets and which are called periodontal ligaments. Even the bone around your teeth is gradually destroyed, and eventually, teeth will loosen.
How Can Gum Disease Affect Diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease?
As your gums begin to pull away from your teeth and they bleed more freely, the bacteria in your mouth can pass from your mouth directly into your bloodstream. From there they can travel around your entire body, affecting other structures and organs including your brain. Advanced periodontal disease has been associated with other serious health conditions, most notably heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. There is, however, one piece of good news and that is the fact that periodontal disease is preventable! Excellent periodontal care protects your teeth and your general health and will help to save money in dental costs.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Gum Disease Affecting Your General Health
Ensuring gum disease cannot affect your general health isn’t difficult, time-consuming or even very expensive. In fact, it will only require a few minutes of your time each day combined with regular six-monthly check-ups and cleans with your dental office. The most important thing is to ensure you have an excellent daily oral hygiene routine. It’s imperative to remove that sticky plaque biofilm through twice daily brushing and by flossing each day thoroughly. Provided you have good technique, this simple routine should remove most of the plaque biofilm. Any that remains will soon harden into tartar or calculus which is the substance scraped or scaled from your teeth during your regular professional dental cleanings.
When you visit your dentist regularly, they can carry out a periodontal evaluation, assessing the overall health of your gums and taking detailed measurements to compare at your next visit. Closely monitoring your gum health allows any changes to be quickly detected and treated. It’s an approach that is cost-effective, and it saves time too. Don’t hesitate to book an appointment with the Dentist in Sherman now.
If you already have periodontal disease, your dentist may be able to treat the first signs of this condition, but otherwise, you might want to visit a periodontist, a specialist in gum conditions. They can provide a far higher standard of care based on several additional years of training and will prescribe the most advanced and effective treatments for periodontal disease. While it might not be possible to eradicate chronic periodontal disease, ongoing treatment can do a lot to maintain reasonable gum health, protecting your natural teeth and your general health.