Gum Disease and Alzheimer’s? A Frightening Connection

gum disease photo
Photo by Internet Archive Book Images

Here’s a good reason to floss: according to a recent study, periodontitis has been connected to Alzheimer’s.

The study, performed by a team from Chung-Shan Medical University in Taiwan, seems to suggest that “people who have had chronic gum inflammation for more than ten years were 70% more likely than people without periodontitis to develop Alzheimer’s.” Which means that, while there wasn’t a direct line between periodontitis and Alzheimer’s, there was a statistically significant correlation between the two.

There is a statistically significant correlation between periodontitis and Alzheimer’s

But what is periodontitis, and how do we prevent it?

Periodontitis, according to the Mayo Clinic, is the damage of the soft-tissue of the gums caused by bacterial infection and plaque buildup. Damage caused by this buildup can cause inflammation, sensitivity, and–if left untreated–eventual damage to the jaw and teeth. At its core, periodontitis is just a compounding of normal, every-day dental hygiene issues. If we don’t brush, then the bacteria in our mouth builds up and creates plaque. Plaque, if we let it build up, becomes gingivitis, which compounds. And, of course, if it compounds it becomes cavities, tissue damage, and periodontitis.

If left untreated, periodontitis can lead to serious issues. Aside from tooth loss and damage to an afflicted jawbone, the Taiwanese study seems to suggest that the inflammation caused by periodontitis can be related to inflammation elsewhere in the body. And though the connection isn’t yet understood, one thing is clear: the health of our mouth is connected to the health of our bodies! As far as Alzheimer’s disease goes, it’s theorized that the inflammation caused by periodontitis can exacerbate the symptoms, making things worse for those who suffer from it, and potentially causing issues where there weren’t any before!

Signs to look for

If you’re concerned about periodontitis, then pay attention to the state of your mouth. Things to look for include any irregularities in the condition of your gums, including a change in color, sensitivity, and swelling. In more extreme cases, there may be bleeding or discharge from the gums as the bacteria build-up causes swelling and weakness in the tissue.

Other signs to watch out for–in more serious cases–include pain while chewing or biting, loosening or re-arranged teeth, and receding gum-lines. If your teeth appear in any way longer than usual, and if your bite seems to fit together differently, then don’t wait– check in with a dentist as soon as possible! It’s possible that, even if it isn’t periodontitis (or an associated gum disease,) this is a sign of a serious dental condition.

If your mouth shows any sign of these symptoms, it’s important to contact your dentist or dental health professional. If you’re in the Austin, TX area, contact us to set up an appointment!

Dan Matthews DDS
Dan Matthews Dan Matthews DDS The Park at Eanes Creek,
4407 Bee Cave Road
Building 2, Suite 221
Austin, Texas, 78746
(512) 452-2273
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