Recent research has found a disturbing new link between gum disease and dementia. Bacteria-causing gingivitis has the ability to metastasize from the mouth to the brain. In older adults there appears to be an association between the imbalanced bacterial content found under the gum line and a biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease. (In fact, researchers have said that harmful mouth pathogens can increase the chances of everything from cancer to heart disease.)
Earlier studies demonstrated a connection between a build-up of amyloid (abnormal) proteins in the cerebral arteries and cognitive decline. The build-up can occur as early as 20 years before the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. What researchers could not determine, however, is exactly how that amyloid protein build-up causes the disease. Recent research now suggests that it could occur when gum disease prevents the body from discarding these intruding enzymes from the brain.
Attempts to prove the link between dental and mental wellness have involved taking cerebrospinal fluid samples and gum swabs from volunteers over the age of 65. The researchers examined the amounts of good and bad oral flora and discovered that those individuals with more beneficial mouth microbes had lower levels of amyloids (abnormal proteins). They also had a lower chance of contracting dementia.
Latest research involves clinical trials to see if deep-cleaning teeth can stave off Alzheimer’s disease.
Seniors can lessen levels of “cerebral plaque” by brushing their teeth for two minutes twice a day with a soft-bristle brush.