If you’ve spent much time caring for your teeth you know how serious gum disease can be. It can lead to heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and a whole bunch of other serious, and potentially deadly, conditions. Now we can add one more to that list: Alzheimer’s.
We take your dental health seriously at our New Albany dentist office, which is why we try to bring you important news like this. The last thing we want is for our patients to end up in poor health because they weren’t aware of a serious link like the one between gum disease and Alzheimer’s!
A Common Problem
There’s a connection between one of the major side effects of gum disease and the speed of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients that’s recently been discovered. The link lies at the very heart of what gum disease causes in your mouth: inflammation.
It all starts when oral bacteria makes its way under your gumline. Once there it spreads without you being able to reach it, causing a rapidly spreading infection. If you’ve ever had a tissue injury of any kind you know that inflammation is a common response. A cut becomes inflamed to drive away infection, muscles become inflamed so that they can heal, and your gums become inflamed due to a rush of white blood cells that show up to fight infection.
Most areas of your body deal with inflammation with little complication. In fact, it usually helps things heal up faster. Not so in your mouth – gum disease is simply too tough to fight off through inflammation alone. If you’ve had gingivitis or gum disease for a while this means your blood is probably filled with inflammation markers. The proteins that show up in the blood due to gum inflammation are the very same ones that contribute to heart disease, arterial blockage, and Alzheimer’s.
What The Study Found
We’ve long known that Alzheimer’s is related to inflammation, but what we haven’t known until recently was how seriously gum disease contributes to the speed of mental decline.
A recent study followed several Alzheimer’s patients for six months; some of whom had gum disease and others that were healthy. By the end of the six month period the researchers found something remarkable: the patients with gum disease were in remarkably worse mental shape, and one had even died.
While the research results are still just a preliminary finding, the evidence seems clear: the inflammation caused by gum disease contributes to the speed of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients.
What Can You Do?
Alzheimer’s can be made worse by the fact that many patients forget to do common daily habits, like brushing and flossing. These two routine activities are fundamental in preventing gum disease and tooth decay. While it might not seem like your oral hygiene routine makes that much of a difference trust us: it does!
Be sure you’re brushing your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes each session. Hold the brush at a 45 degree angle to your gumline to ensure you’re getting down into the hard-to-reach spot where your teeth and gums meet. Don’t brush too hard or you could hurt your gums!
Flossing nightly is just as important a brushing your teeth. The spaces between your teeth are the most vulnerable in your mouth because of how hard it is to keep them clean and how easy it is to miss the early signs of problems there. 18 inches of floss are enough to keep your whole mouth clean. Just make sure you’re getting in between each pair of teeth and down into the gumline. The massaging action of flossing stimulates healthy gums that are more resistant to gum disease!
Lastly, you can’t expect to have good dental health without regular professional checkups. Cleanings and exams allow us to monitor your oral health, pick up on problems far earlier than you can, and clean out the spaces that are practically impossible for you to reach.
Avoid Gum Disease: Call Us Today!
More and more research is finding close links between oral health and serious illnesses. Don’t let yourself end up with risk factors for heart disease, strokes, or Alzheimer’s when prevention can be so easy!