Has your dentist mentioned that your gums are inflamed, or that you have gingivitis? If so, you’re certainly not alone! These are related to gum disease, which is a common oral health condition that well over half of the American population has at some degree. As gum disease’s prevalence slowly increases and research on this issue continues, experts have discovered that gum health can influence the wellbeing of the rest of the body. In fact, gum disease may be connected to a higher risk of heart disease, arthritis, and even Alzheimer’s disease! Read on as we go over how your gums are connected to your brain, and how to keep both healthy.
Gum Disease 101: The Infection In Your Gums
Your mouth is naturally full of both good and bad bacteria, and they gradually accumulate over time. If you don’t clean these particles away regularly with brushing and flossing, they may begin to harm your teeth and gums. In response, your gum tissue will become red, inflamed, and bleed easily. This is the first and only reversible stage of gum disease, gingivitis.
Without improved oral hygiene, the bacterium may infect the gum tissue. At this stage, you may notice chronic bad breath and sensitive gums. The infection will continue to grow and damage the gum tissue, which could eventually lead to gum recession, jawbone deterioration, and tooth loss.
The Connection Between Gum Disease & Alzheimer’s Disease
Unfortunately, the negative consequences of gum disease don’t stop at your smile. Research shows that the presence of gum disease has an impact on the health of the entire body. It can increase a patient’s risk of many systemic health conditions, like heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s disease. But how can the health of your gums influence your brain health?
New studies lead experts to believe that the connection has to do with the bacterium itself. One of the main pathogens responsible for gum disease is called P. gingivalis. Researchers suspect that bacteria in the mouth from gum disease can escape into the bloodstream and travel throughout the body. Autopsies of deceased patients with Alzheimer’s disease found this same pathogen present in the brain, and its DNA in the spinal fluid. Does this mean that gum disease can cause Alzheimer’s disease? In short, no. There isn’t enough research on the topic to confirm this suspicion. Doctors warn that research is still ongoing and that we don’t fully understand this connection yet.
Tips for Keeping Your Gums & Brain Healthy
While no one can say for sure if gum disease directly causes Alzheimer’s disease, there is strong enough evidence of a connection that experts highly recommend taking preventive action just in case. Here are some tips for preventing gum disease that will also keep your brain healthy:
- Practice good oral hygiene: Regular brushing and flossing is the easiest and most reliable way to protect your gums from a buildup of dangerous bacteria.
- Stay hydrated: Drinking water will help wash away bacteria in your mouth, plus, staying hydrated improves brain function!
- Eat healthy: Sugars and carbs fuel the bacteria that causes gum disease, so it’s best to eat healthier. Eat more fruits and vegetables, which have a garden variety of vitamins that are good for both your brain and your oral health!
- Visit your dentist twice a year: Biannual checkups with your dentist will help you spot the earliest signs of gum disease as well as many systemic health conditions so you can take action right away and prevent them.
About the Practice
Dr. Matthew Nawrocki, DMD, MS is pleased to serve Orange Park and the surrounding communities with compassionate and specialized oral healthcare. He’s outfitted his practice with the latest dental technology and has completed advanced training in several topics to provide nothing but the best treatments for his patients. While he and his talented team go above and beyond to help their patients from developing gum disease, they are well-equipped to help you overcome any issue you face so you can regain the healthy smile you deserve! To learn more, he can be contacted via his website or at (904) 272-1588.