Oral Hygiene Linked To Development Of Alzheimers
Aging and gum disease certainly have a correlation, but recent studies have also shown that oral hygiene could be linked to other factors as well. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease published a report on the subject, printing data collected by the University of Lancashire, which found bacteria found in gum disease inside the brains of cadavers which had suffered from dementia while alive.
To be sure that there was a relation between the bacteria and the deteriorating disease, researchers also tested brains which had not been affected by Alzheimer’s. The lipopolysaccharides from the gum disease were not evident in these cadavers, leading to the conclusion that it did hold some form of link between the two.
Gum disease spreads by way of the blood stream. It enters the body through cuts and sores in the mouth, or when food is chewed and digested. This allows the bacteria to reach other areas, such as the brain and cause negative effects like those seen in dementia related diseases.
Unfortunately, at this time there is no known cure or one specific cause for Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists have been working on treatments for this disease since its appearance. While treatments are available which can slow down the process, there is no way to completely eradicate the illness. Once diagnosed, the brain degenerates, causing sufferers to forget family friends, and their own personal history. It can also reset memories which are instilled as a child, making it difficult and eventually impossible for patients to feed or cloth themselves on their own.
Evidence that gum disease might be a factor in the cause of this illness shines hope on the possibility of further preventative procedures. If gum disease can be treated early enough, the idea that it could prevent Alzheimer’s altogether is a very exciting prospect. Colgate.com explains their take on the reasoning behind gum disease affecting the brain, stating; “The researchers hypothesized that when the bacteria reach the brain, they may trigger an immune system response (like they do in the mouth), killing brain cells. This immune response could be one mechanism that leads to changes in the brain, which is typical in Alzheimer’s disease. It could play a role in causing symptoms such as confusion and deteriorating memory.”
The most recent study only used a small number of participants to determine the link. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the testing, it would be difficult or impossible to have live participants for the type of in depth samples required. Of course, dental records and medical records could be used from living patients to see whether or not this relationship exists in an individual.
While it appears that gum disease could be a causing factor in the disease making an appearance, other studies have provided results which suggest the bacteria to simply worsen existing symptoms, rather than cause the illness altogether. This research suggests that those who suffer could experience more severe symptoms if gum disease is evident.
Something that can be very frustrating for friends and family members of Alzheimer’s patients, is the likelihood of developing gum disease due to the illness. Not only can gum disease bacteria worsen symptoms, the more severe the dementia becomes, the less likely it is that individuals will care for their teeth and gums, building a negative cycle. Medical News Today reports; “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost half of adults in the US have some form of gum disease, or periodontal disease. Rates increase with age, with the condition affecting more than 70% of adults aged 65 and older. The researchers note that rates of gum disease may be even higher for people with Alzheimer's disease, primarily because they are less likely to engage in good oral hygiene as their condition progresses.”
Signs To Watch For
Your dentist can tell you whether or not you are at risk of developing gum disease. Brushing, flossing and fluoride treatments can keep your teeth and gums from deteriorating, but regular checkups are also necessary.
Stay aware of your mouth and watch for bad breath, bleeding gums, swollen gums, or discoloration of oral tissues. If you smoke cigarettes or have other health issues, this can also contribute to your oral health. Catching gum disease early and treating it properly can keep your mouth and your brain healthy. Medicine Net writes; “About 64 percent of Americans aged 65 and older have moderate or severe gum (periodontal) disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alzheimer's disease, the leading cause of dementia, affects more than 5 million Americans and is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Alzheimer's Association.”
These statistics help shine a light on how many people are affected regularly by both of these correlating factors. Alzheimer’s awareness has become much more fluent across the countries, and new information such as this link between gum disease bacteria and dementia helps immensely in the fight against the disease, and the search for a cure, or possible preventative measures.
If you or a family member has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, speak to your doctor and dentist about your gums and other health factors which could contribute to more severe symptoms. There may not be a cure just yet, but slowing down the disease could offer individuals more time to spend normal healthy years with family and friends until a cure is found.
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