Elderly woman being cared for by a caregiver.

The Link Between Alzheimer's and Gum Disease

September 24, 2020

Could some of the same bacteria associated with gum disease be considered a probable risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease? Several studies in recent years say yes, however there are many more factors to consider.

September is World Alzheimer’s Month and understanding the connection between oral health and Alzheimer’s disease can help you better care for yourself and your family.

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What is Alzheimer's Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common and well-known form of dementia, the collective name for degenerative brain syndromes that affect memory, thinking, behavior, and emotion. Over time, dementia leads to disability, leaving those affected unable to care for themselves and needing help with every aspect of their daily lives.

Today, nearly 50 million people live with dementia worldwide, and according to a 2015 study published in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences (NAJMS), an estimated 14 million more people will become affected by Alzheimer’s in the next 50 years.

There’s currently no cure for dementia and there’s also no one cause of the disease. Alzheimer’s is a complex disorder linked to interactions between genetics, other diseases, and environmental factors.

Age is known to be a risk factor for AD which can be classified as either early onset or late onset. The incidence of AD significantly increases with age affecting almost 50% of people over the age of 85. Other risk factors include family history, high fat diet, hypertension, diabetes, history of head trauma, diseases associated with inflammation, and genetic predispositions such as the gene variant APOE-4.

How Oral Health and Alzheimer's Are Connected

So, how does oral health come into play?

According to the study published by the NAJMS, the same bacteria which has been associated with periodontitis (gum disease) known to cause inflammation in the gum tissue surrounding the teeth, have been found in some people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

But all of this isn’t to say that if you do have gum disease, you’ll develop Alzheimer’s, nor that a lack of gum disease eliminates your risk. Remember that many factors, both in and out of your control, play a part in the development of dementia.

The good news is that your oral health is one of the factors that you can control, and by staying on top of it you also reduce your risk for other conditions linked to gum disease such as stroke, diabetes, and heart disease.

So, don’t forget to brush and floss your teeth daily and use an antibacterial mouthwash. And if you do notice changes in your gums, pay a visit to your dentist as soon as you can so they can help you develop an individualized treatment plan.

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease? Delta Dental consultant Abbie Goudarzi, DDS, offers tips for helping them ensure a healthy smile despite dementia.

Ready to take care of your smile AND yourself? Explore our Individual & Family plans to find the coverage that’s right for you!

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