The Alzheimer’s – Oral health connection



Over the years researchers have discovered several evidences that exhibits link between oral health and systemic health. Inflammatory diseases, including dental disease, especially gums, related compromise the body’s ability to fight infections and can exacerbate systemic diseases. Scientific studies have shownrelations between periodontal disease and diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and recently, a plausible link between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, is a neurodegenerative disorder affecting cognitive ability and psychiatric health. This disease affects nerve cells and neurons, causing loss of memory and behavioural changes. Symptoms of Alzheimer can be attributed to several other forms of dementia and ailments.

On the other hand, periodontal disease like, gum inflammation is a low-grade disease and is characterized by the presence of pathogenic bacteria which causes gingival inflammation, attachment loss, tooth mobility and finally tooth fall.


Oral Health and the Alzheimer – The Co-relation

The pathogens of Alzheimer disease are unknown, whereas several studies and research has discovered that in addition to plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, other indicator is inflammatory pathogens. The studies relate the inflammatory pathology is linked to the presence of a peripheral inflammatory infection such as gums diseases, due to presence of periodontal bacteria.

The most common way of transportation of pathogens to the brain cells is through the bloodstream. While, chewing, flossing and dental treatment the bacteria are released into the bloodstream. In elderly people bacteria may remain in periodontal bacteria pocket and further keeps on releasing, whereas in young and fit people the bacteria hardly remain for couple hours in the bloodstream.

There is another way by which microbes reach the brain cells, is by crossing the brain barrier. And, as the age of a subject progresses the presence of too many bacteria compromises the integrity of the blood brain barrier, making it easy for the microbes to destroy the nerve cells.

The gum cavity has plethora of bacteria which are found in the sticky plaque that covers the mouth. In addition to this, the deep periodontal pockets collect plaque and debris and is a breeding ground for a high number of pathogenic bacteria.Excessive exposure to inflammation in early stage of life from ailments such as chronic dental disease quadruples a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.Often patients with mitral valve prolapse and other heart ailments takeantibiotic before dental procedures to avoid the bacteria from depositing within the heart.

Several studies have showed an increase in periodontal association pro-inflammatory cytokines demonstrating a strong correlation between periodontal disease and Alzheimer.The reason behind linking gum disease with Alzheimer’s is that the presence of oral bacteria lipopolysaccharides in the brain causes inflammation. This could trigger a biological cascade that can be linked to the brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease.


Dentist’s role in advising patients with Alzheimer and gum disease

If a patient is diagnosedwith Alzheimer or any other form of dementia issues, then the focus should be understanding the disease, assisting the patient in maintain an independent and balanced life as long as possible with a quality of life. Some of the important factors for dental professionals to consider while treating Alzheimer’s patients are exercising increased patience and understanding the cause and relationship between both the disease and a proper advice to weed out unwanted lifestyle.It is of prime importance to educate Alzheimer’s patients with the tools to help with good oral hygiene habits.

Dental hygiene instructions given should include how to brush properly and floss their tooth daily, how to rinse with an alcohol-free, antibacterial mouth rinse, and how to remove, clean, and insert removable prostheses. Simply having patients rinse their mouths after eating is beneficial to prevent the development of gums problems and thus any bacteria which could further flow to the blood stream.

With person having progressive dementia, it is needed to teach them the importance of a good oral hygiene and daily flossing and brushing twice in order to avoid further deterioration of the dementia issues.Sometimes the patient with severe Alzheimer issues have to be taught a simple task of brushing and flossing.

Dentists need to take initiative to educate Alzheimer patients to try to prevent oral disease as much as possible so that the disease does not cause further damage to the brain. Perhaps the key to slowing down the progression of Alzheimer disease is as simple as exemplary oral hygiene.

Precautions: especially for elderly people as the dementia of Alzheimer’s cases are seen mostly with elderly person.

Today’s elderly population understands the importance of oral and overall health, and thus they try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But, with age come health issues such as mental depression, high and low blood pressure, arthritis,heart disease, high sugar level and numerous on problems and thus it becomes harder and harder for them to take a good dental care, and there are other factors that also contribute to poor health issues. Following precautions should be taken on day to day basis to keep gums and teeth in good and healthy conditions-

  1. keeping the gum strong and healthy by following all the good habits of brushing, flossing and oral protection.
  2. Consuming a proper diet, and following a regular workout routine, to avoid stress level.
  3. Intake of alcohol, cigarette and other caffeine rich product should be avoided and if consumed should be followed upon by proper cleaning of tooth and gums.

The underlying summary is that there have been established fact about co-relation between bad oral habits and probable reason of Alzheimer, hence it becomes must for every one to take a good care of their teeth and gums and put a smiling face, which could ultimately lead to a peaceful mind!