Is there a link between Alzheimer’s disease and oral hygiene?

A study by the University of Central Lancashire School of Medicine and Dentistry in 2013 revealed that people with poor oral hygiene or gum disease may be at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It validates a previous U.S. study in which researchers reported that failing to brush your teeth each day significantly increases the risk of dementia.

The study showed that when the brain is constantly exposed to bacteria and/or other debris from a person’s gums, subsequent immune responses may lead to nerve cell death and possibly a decline in cognition. The bacteria enters the bloodstream through daily activities such as eating, chewing and tooth brushing, and, most of all, through invasive dental treatment.

When the bacteria reach the brain, it may trigger immune system responses by already primed brain cells. This process causes the bacteria to increase more chemicals that kill neurons.

Researchers feel that this could be one mechanism that leads to changes in the brain, typical to Alzheimer’s disease and can even be responsible for such symptoms as confusion and fading memory.

Although the research was not definitive, continued visits to dental hygiene professionals diligently throughout an individual’s life is very important in reducing the risk of dementia, as is incorporating a good teeth flossing regimen and maintaining a healthy lifestyle of good nutrition and regular exercise.

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.