Every day we are finding new information that shows how significantly gum disease could impact our overall health. Now researchers are reporting that, not only is there an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease among people with gum disease, but that gum disease may speed cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s.
A Small Study
The current research, published in the open journal Public Library of Science (PLOS) ONE, was conducted by researchers at the University of Southampton and King’s College. Researchers performed cognitive assessments on 59 individuals and charted their cognitive decline against other health variables. Blood samples were taken to check for inflammatory proteins and all individuals had their oral health assessed by a dental hygienist. After six months, most of the patients were assessed again.
Patients with gum disease were found to experience a sixfold increase in the rate of cognitive decline over those patients who didn’t have gum disease. They also found that those who had gum disease at the beginning of the study had an increased risk of inflammation.
How Gum Disease Might Damage Your Brain
To understand how gum disease could damage your brain, it’s important to understand how gum disease leads to gum and bone damage. Gum disease is an infection of your gums. In its early stages, this infection damages your gums because the bacteria secrete acid, similar to the way they damage your teeth.
But as the infection increases and penetrates deep into your gums, your body responds by escalating its immune response. This immune response helps it fight bacteria, but it also damages your bones, gums, and teeth. And it releases messengers that stimulate a heightened immune response throughout the body, known as an inflammatory state. In this inflammatory state, your body may experience autoimmune disorders where your immune system attacks your body tissues. This may include rheumatoid arthritis, where the immune system attacks the joints, including the temporomandibular joints.
Gum disease bacteria may damage the brain either by traveling there through the blood and triggering a local immune response, or triggering a general immune response, both of which might damage the brain.
The best way to avoid this kind of brain damage is to keep your gum disease under control with regular oral hygiene visits so that your body’s immune response also remains under control. If you are looking for a dentist in Tarrytown that can help protect you from gum disease, please call (914) 332-4402 for an appointment at Advanced Dentistry of Tarrytown.