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Oral Health & Alzheimer’s

Posted on February 27th, 2021

San Luis Obispo dentist, Dr. Michael Colleran at Michael Colleran DDS explains the connection between Alzheimer’s and oral health.Did you know that unhealthy gums might put your brain at risk

Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia, which harms your memory, ability to think, and can cause changes in your personality. It’s very common and usually affects people aged 60 and over. And, Alzheimer’s might be significantly more likely to happen if your mouth and gums aren’t healthy.

The Link is Inflammation 


A New York University College of Dentistry study found, “long-term evidence that periodontal (gum) disease may increase the risk of cognitive dysfunction associated with Alzheimer’s.” 

Gum disease is a case of inflammation in your mouth. Inflammation is a natural and appropriate response in your body to fight invaders and infection. Gum disease and oral inflammation can be a minor problem or become very serious. But chronic inflammation causes a variety of health concerns that can affect everything from your oral health to your brain. Unfortunately, inflammation problems are increasingly common in the US.

The study at NYU found that gum inflammation might actually contribute to brain inflammation, which leads to neurodegeneration (the breakdown and decline in the health of brain cells and neurons) and Alzheimer’s. This was the case both for people in good health and people with existing cognitive impairment. Sometimes studies only show that two conditions are correlated, but the researchers at NYU believe gum disease is actually one of the causes of Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s & Gum Disease

In the NYU study, people with Alzheimer’s had significantly more antibodies and inflammatory molecules in their blood if they had gum disease.

In addition, the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease reported that a certain kind of oral bacteria could travel through your bloodstream and cause harm in other parts of your body, including the brain. Some oral bacteria are good and necessary. But keeping your mouth clean and healthy is the foundation for oral health and to prevent gum disease.

Signs of gum disease include:

  • swollen gums
  • bleeding gums
  • discolored gums
  • gums pulling away from teeth
  • loose teeth
  • persistent bad breath and a bad taste in the mouth

If this is what inflamed gums look like, can you imagine if a brain was inflamed?

Prevention 

If you could maintain a few simple habits that supported your oral wellness and brain health, why wouldn’t you? The benefits of daily oral hygiene are both immediate and long-term. You can make it a “mental habit.”

The most important and basic routines for oral wellness and overall health are:

  • brushing teeth for two whole minutes, twice per day
  • flossing or cleaning between teeth once per day
  • regularly visiting your dentist
  • eating a balanced diet low in acid, sugar, and avoiding snacks

If you have more questions about the oral health link to Alzheimer’s, or you want to become a part of a dental family, come see Dr. Michael Colleran in San Luis Obispo. Make an appointment at Michael Colleran DDS today!

The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

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About Dr. Colleran

Dr. Colleran is a nationally renowned dental author and lecturer and an expert on laser dentistry. He has spoken across the country on laser dentistry and had articles appear in several professional journals. He is also sought after by dental manufacturers as a consultant for product evaluation and research. Dr. Colleran is an instructor for the Institute for Advanced Laser Dentistry, which teaches LANAP and other laser dental procedures to dentists from across the globe.