June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. It is the perfect time for you to think about whether you are doing all you can to protect your brain from devastating illnesses that might rob you of your memories and alter your personality. Exercise, being a lifelong learner, and eating a healthy diet have all been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. But did you know that maintaining your oral health could also promote your long-term mental health? This article discusses the link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s.
How Gum Disease Affects the Mind
Researchers at a university in England examined brain tissue from 10 individuals with dementia and 10 individuals without dementia. Among the individuals with dementia, four of them had gum disease bacteria in their brains, while none of the individuals without dementia had the gum disease bacteria in their brains. The researchers postulated that the bacteria may have instigated an immune response that led to brain damage.
That study is just one of many that point to a link between deteriorating mental health and gum disease. For example, a Swedish study examined over 100 pairs of identical twins. The twins who had gum disease relatively early in life were four times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
The human brain is extraordinarily complex, and scientists do not yet fully understand Alzheimer’s disease. However, the abovementioned research highlights the strong possibility that how you care for your mouth can have a direct effect on your brain’s health.
Maintain Your Gums at Every Age
It is never too early or too late to start thinking about how you can take better care of your gums and thus possibly reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Gum disease can afflict individuals of any age. In fact, it is estimated that almost half of adults over age 30 have some form of gum disease, while roughly 70 percent of individuals over the age of 65 have it. Here are a few keys to maintaining your gum health throughout your life:
- Stick to an excellent oral hygiene routine.
- Do not assume that if you were free of gum disease at your last checkup, your gums are still healthy. Regular checkups with your dentist in Mankato are essential for preventing and arresting gum disease.
- Care for your dental prosthetics. If you have undergone treatment to replace missing teeth, be extra diligent about caring for the gums around your restorations.
- Keep your mouth moist. Many seniors and people who take certain medications struggle with a perpetually dry mouth, which can increase bacterial buildup on the teeth and gums. By staying hydrated and taking other steps to encourage saliva production, you may be able to reduce your risk of gum disease.
Are you taking necessary steps to protect your gums and thereby potentially reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s? A few simple adjustments to your oral care routine may be one of the keys to preserving your brain health.
About the Author
Dr. James Kalina is an accomplished general dentist who helps his patients prevent and fight gum disease in Mankato via regular checkups, non-surgical periodontal therapy, and other treatments. If you would like to talk to Dr. Kalina about how you can maintain healthy gums, or if it is time for your next dental exam, contact our team today at 507-625-2021.