As specialists in dentures, it’s no surprise to us at The Oyster Bay Family Dentists that gum disease is closely tied to disease throughout the body. Dentists have long known that there appears to be a correlation between periodontal infections and Alzheimer’s disease, but it was thought that people with memory problems simply struggled with oral hygiene. Within the past few months, new studies have been published that shed more light on this issue and the importance of prevention.
One of the bacteria species that causes gum disease is Porphyromonas gingivalis. It secretes toxic enzymes called gingipains as a defense against white blood cells. Gingipains are found at elevated levels in the brains and spinal fluid of people with Alzheimer’s disease. We also know that P. gingivalis causes the production of components of the plaque that disrupt Alzheimer’s patients’ neurons. Another recent study established that P. gingivalis is able to move from the gums to the brain in living humans.
Scientists caution that it is too soon to say that gum disease is the sole cause of Alzheimer’s and that there are likely other factors, as well. But there is good reason to believe that gum infections and Alzheimer’s exist in a feedback loop. New research is being done into whether treating gum disease can break that loop, but it is a good idea in the meantime for everyone to stay vigilant in their brushing.
Drs. Denise VeyVoda and Robert G. West operate The Oyster Bay Family Dentists at 123 South Street, Oyster Bay, New York, 11771. To schedule an appointment, call 516-922-5730 or visit Oyster Bay Dentists and fill out a contact sheet.