Periodontal disease – is the infection and inflammation of the gums and other supporting tissues of the teeth caused by oral bacteria. While periodontal disease is considered a localized infection that affects the teeth, gums and surrounding oral tissues, it can also have dramatic negative effects on a person’s overall health. Recent research shows there is a connection between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Periodontal inflammation has been shown to be associated with inflammation in the brain that increases the risk for cognitive dysfunctions linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and the 6th leading cause of death in America today. Approximately five million Americans have this progressive condition that involves loss of cognitive function and short term memory. Alzheimer’s disease appears o be on the rise in the United States with more and more cases being diagnosed each year. The most common risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease include old age, heredity and family history. Most of the patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease also have periodontal disease. This has led researchers to believe that there is a connection between these two disease states.
Periodontal Inflammation = Increased Risk For Alzheimer’s Disease?
Periodontal disease increases the risk of developing the cognitive disorder linked to Alzheimer’s disease. According to recent studies conducted to find out the causal relationship between these two conditions, people with periodontal inflammation face an increased risk of having lower cognitive functions compared to those without periodontal inflammation. The risk increases as the level of inflammation increases. Researchers believe that periodontal disease also causes an increased decline in cognitive functions in people with already declining cognitive functions.
In 2005, a group of researchers noticed an increased presence of antibodies and inflammatory chemicals linked to periodontal disease in patients with Alzheimer’s disease compared to those of healthy individuals. Alzheimer’s disease patients also showed higher levels of periodontal bacteria in their brains. Researchers believe that when the oral periodontal bacteria multiply, they enter the blood stream and travel to the brain, where they cause infections and damage there.
researchers think there are three possible ways that periodontal disease can lead to Alzheimer’s:
1. Periodontal bacteria causes infections and damages brain cells.
2. Periodontal bacteria triggers inflammation on the brain. This inflammation is involved in Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Oral bacteria responsible for periodontal disease causes vascular changes that can promote Alzheimer’s disease.
Relationship Between Periodontal Disease and Lowered Cognition
Reserachers used the Digital Symbol Test for cognitive function for people aged 70, those with periodontal inflammation had lower DST scores compared to those with little inflammation or none at all, even after considering other risk factors for low DST scores such as obesity and other forms of tooth loss unrelated to periodontal disease.
Early Periodontal Health and Alzheimer’s Disease
According to an article published in the Journal of American Dental Association, any kind of Inflammation as a child increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as an adult. Developing periodontal disease or losing teeth before the age of 35 increases the risk of having Alzheimer’s disease in old age. This makes it so important to maintain good oral hygiene throughout life.
Common Shared Risk Factors
Common risk factors for both Alzheimer’s disease and periodontal disease include genetics and smoking cigarettes. These risk factors could explain the connection between these two disease states. Periodontal inflammation and any kind of tooth loss are risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.
It is also possible that periodontal disease can cause cerebrovascular injury to the brain. Stroke is also a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, and periodontal disease increases the risk of developing stroke.
Alzheimer’s As a Risk Factor for Periodontal Disease
Patients of Alzheimer’s disease are not always able to practice the required oral and dental hygiene needed to maintain a healthy teeth and gums. This places them at a higher risk of developing periodontal disease.
While there is no conclusive evidence that gum disease causes Alzheimer’s disease or that taking proper care of teeth can reduce the risk of this form of dementia yet, numerous studies conclude that preventing periodontal disease is an effective way of avoiding or delaying Alzheimer’s disease. Along with a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a nutritious diet, regular visits to the dentist as well as practicing proper dental hygiene by brushing teeth and flossing are effective ways of preventing both diseases.