Oral Health and Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's patient smiling

The Link Between Gum Disease & Alzheimer’s Disease

In many ways, your mouth is the window to your body — which means it’s not surprising that conditions that affect your oral health can lead to consequences for other areas of your body.

Keep reading to learn the connection between your oral health and your brain health, and what you can do to stay healthy.

Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Explained

Dementia is a disease that affects a person’s brain and causes loss of cognitive function. It also interferes with the ability to perform activities of daily living, often leaving patients unable to care for themselves.

There are various different types of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common. Often referred to as senile dementia, Alzheimer’s accounts for 60–70% of all dementia cases. Though most common in elderly patients, dementia happens to adults of all ages.

Making the Connection

Recent studies have connected the presence of gum disease with fully diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting that your oral health has an impact on your brain.

How? The oral bacteria P. gingivalis, which is responsible for many forms of gum disease, has been found to travel between a patient’s mouth and their brain. When this bacteria reaches the brain, it can reproduce many of the characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease.

How Gum Disease Forms

Gum disease can be genetic for some patients but commonly occurs due to poor hygiene habits. The early stages of gum disease may be asymptomatic; however, some patients may experience the symptoms:

  • Bleeding gums during flossing or brushing.
  • Gums that appear red or swollen.
  • Sensitivity in the gums.
  • Bad breath.

Due to a lack of brushing, groups of bacteria called plaque to form on the teeth and harden. Over time, this bacteria infects your gums. As the disease advances to later stages (often referred to as periodontal disease), the roots of teeth may become exposed and the gums will appear noticeably inflamed.

Caring for Your Oral Health With Alzheimer’s

In addition to the link between these two conditions, patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia may also forget common self-care routines, such as brushing their teeth. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, prevention is key to prevent eating difficulties down the line.

However, as the disease progresses, caring for a patient’s smile can be more challenging. As cognitive ability decreases, so do oral hygiene in many cases.

If you or someone you love has dementia or Alzheimer’s, here are some ways from the Alzheimer’s Association you can help protect their smile:

  • Offer short and simple directions.
  • Help brush their teeth at least twice a day.
  • Demonstrate how to properly brush.
  • Try different toothbrushes to see which works best.
  • Find the right dentist to care for their needs.
  • Stay aware of any discomfort or pain in the mouth.
  • Properly sanitize dentures.
  • Keep a record of recent dental appointments.

Let Our Richardson Dentist Help Keep You Healthy

With proper hygiene and regular visits to the dentist, you can prevent or limit your chances of forming gum disease — helping to protect your oral health and overall wellbeing.

If you haven’t had a dental checkup in some time, contact our team at Richardson Dentistry today: (972) 218-0078

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