The Surprising Link Between Oral Health and Alzheimer’s Disease

There’s been a lot of buzz in the last decade about gut health and the gut microbiome, but you also have an oral microbiome (and skin microbiome), which is responsible for some pretty essential roles in your oral and systemic health. We often think of bacteria as “bad.” While some certainly are, as humans, we are totally reliant on “good” bacteria for our survival. In fact, we are almost equal parts human cells and microbial cells!

Our oral microbiome comprises a variety of microbial species (an estimated 700 different types), many of which are “good bacteria.” However, serious problems can arise when there is a bacterial imbalance where harmful bacteria outnumber the good. One such major oral health condition that occurs from a bacterial overgrowth is periodontal disease. As a prevention-driven dental office in Hollywood, Florida, we know that gum disease can be prevented.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease and in its early stage, referred to as gingivitis, is a chronic inflammatory disease triggered by bacterial microorganisms (the bad ones!) that affect the gums, bones, and other tissues that support your teeth. Symptoms can include persistent bad breath, red or swollen gums, tender or bleeding gums, painful chewing, sensitive teeth, loose teeth, and receding gums. Gum disease perpetuates as the pockets between your teeth and gums become enlarged because of the condition and harbors bacteria that further contribute to the chronic infection and inflammation.

While losing your teeth is a severe consequence of advanced periodontal disease, researchers have recently discovered a link between the imbalanced bacterial community found under the gumline and brain health.

Link Between Periodontal Disease and Brain Health

According to the study, “older adults with more harmful bacteria than healthy bacteria in their gums are more likely to have evidence of amyloid beta, which is a key biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease, in their cerebrospinal fluid.” According to the CDC, an estimated 70% of adults 65 or older are affected by gum disease. Amyloid beta is a protein that clumps together to form plaques and is recognized as the first protein deposit in the brain as Alzheimer’s disease develops.

How can you reduce the risk of gum disease?

The good news is that you can take some very simple steps to reduce your risk of advanced gum disease and, in turn, possibly reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

1. Brush your teeth at least twice daily (try a Sonicare toothbrush!)
2. Floss regularly (you can’t fool us, we know you don’t floss, but here is just another great reason to start today!)
3. Stick to your bi-annual professional cleanings (early detection is possible!)
4. Quit smoking (this is the #1 risk factor for gum disease) *We know this one isn’t considered simple but is necessary for so many health reasons!
5. Reduce your sugar intake (bacteria LOVE sugar)
6. Drink more water (this helps wash away acids and food debris)
7. Eat more fruits and veggies (nutrient-dense food helps strengthen teeth and gums)

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