In recent years there has been a plethora of studies revolving around the links that exist between your oral health and systemic health (total body health). These studies have consistently revealed that inflammatory diseases, such as periodontal disease, compromise the body’s ability to fight infections and can worsen systemic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. More recently a link has been discovered that inflammation in your mouth, such as periodontal disease, can affect your brain health and function, contributing to the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). It is important to make note that there have been no studies that have proven that periodontal disease causes AD, only that there is a plausible link between specific types of bacteria associated with periodontal disease and the increased risk of developing AD.
How can there be a link between the bacteria in your mouth and the rest of your body? The most common ways bacteria can reach other areas of your body is through the bloodstream. If your gums bleed when you chew, floss, and brush, bacteria from your mouth (periodontal bacteria) will enter your bloodstream and travel throughout your body. The bacteria is usually contained by the immune cells of the body. However, in people with a reduced or weakened immune system, the bacteria is able to travel throughout the body more easily.
In two different studies with 2,415 subjects over the age of 60, it was found that those who did not have AD at the start but developed it over the course of the study had periodontal dental disease present prior to developing AD. The subjects which developed AD did have higher levels of antibodies to the periodontal bacteria suggesting that they body was already attempting to fight the bacteria, support the timing that the infectious periodontal disease was present before the AD developed.
What Does This Mean For You?
It means that taking care of your teeth and gums at any age is important. Whether you have or have not been diagnosed with periodontal disease, continue your regular visits to your dentist as prescribed, maintain a consistent and effective oral hygiene routine at home, and keep the rest of your body as healthy as possible.
Making these healthy choices is going to help reduce and/or eliminate the presence of periodontal disease. Using products that help reduce tooth decay such as fluoride and sealants,mouth rinses or gels, getting regular professional dental cleanings, and monitoring bone loss with regular exams and x-rays are also important steps in maintaining a healthy mouth. Your Dentist and Dental Hygienist are experts in the topic of oral and total body health and can help provide education and suggestions for improving home care in between visits. They are your partners in health and want you to say as healthy as possible! So the next time you see them ask as many questions as you can think of. Write them down as you think of them and bring your list to your next appointment! If you have any concerns, no matter how “small” you think it may be, please mention it. To us, it’s all important!