Gum Disease Has Been Linked to Alzheimer's Disease

Gum Disease Has Been Linked to Alzheimer's Disease

Gum disease, or periodontitis, is never good news, but the news just got worse thanks to a new study that reveals a potential link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

At Austin Smiles by Day, Dr. Francys Day and our team make every effort to keep our patients in perfect dental health. And one of the main enemies when it comes to your oral health is gum disease, which affects half of all Americans over the age of 30.

In light of this eye-opening number, we want to educate our patients on the potential dangers of gum disease, starting with the findings of this new study. Here’s what you should know about the link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

What the study revealed

The study, which was released this year in Science Advances, was conducted by a group of medical researchers who specialize in both gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

After evaluating the brain tissue, spinal fluid, and saliva of 53 deceased and living Alzheimer’s patients, the team discovered the presence of P. gingivalis, the bacteria associated with gum disease, at alarmingly high levels. To put a number to it, 96% of the collected tissue samples contained higher levels of gingipains, which are the destructive enzymes secreted by P. gingivalis.

The role these gingipains play in Alzheimer’s disease is complicated, so it’s helpful to take a quick look at what happens to your brain when Alzheimer’s sets in. When functioning properly, the neurons in your brain contain internal structures called microtubules, which enable cell support and function. These microtubules are supported by a protein called tau, which stabilizes these tiny structures.

In patients with Alzheimer’s disease, the tau protein molecules detach from the microtubules and clump together, interfering with how your brain cells work together.

And this is where the connection between gum disease and Alzheimer’s comes in — gingipains related to periodontal disease can negatively impact your tau, acting as neurotoxins. And the presence of P. gingivalis and their associated gingipains can set off an immunoreactivity response that leads to neuroinflammation and progressive dementia.

The take-home

While there’s a lot of science to absorb from this study, the bottom line is that it gives us another very good reason to make gum disease a top priority. At our practice, we believe that diligent at-home care combined with our expert oversight can help you avoid the potential pitfalls of gum disease.

To start, your regular professional cleanings play an invaluable role in catching gum disease in its earliest stages — gingivitis. More often than not, we can tackle your inflamed gums and remove harmful bacteria before they have a chance to do more damage.

If needed, we can perform a deep cleaning, which gets up under your gums to remove decay-causing bacteria.

No matter what stage your gum disease is in, there’s much we can do to halt, and even reverse, its progression, saving you from tooth loss, and maybe even Alzheimer’s disease.

To learn more about gum disease or for early treatment, please give us a call or use the online scheduling tool to book an appointment.

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