Mouth-Body Connection….Oral Health and Dementia

It is scientifically well known that certain bacteria in the mouth when allowed to organize on the teeth, cause localized inflammation which can lead to systemic inflammation when these bacteria and their by-products enter the blood stream There has been an increase of reports in the news lately that have focused on the emerging scientific evidence linking periodontal disease to dementia.

Dementia is not a natural consequence of aging nor is it a state of extreme forgetfulness.  It is a chronic, progressive disease of the brain that leads to a decline in memory, learning capacity, language, judgement and thinking at the higher cortical level.  Alzheimer’s disease is the most common kind of dementia making up for two thirds of all cases of dementia.  Posthumous inspection of the brain tissue of an Alzheimer’s patient shows an accumulation of protein plaques comprised of beta-amyloid.  These amyloid levels are elevated in response to microbial activity and inflammation. It is this very protein that causes Alzheimer’s.

P. gingivalis, a pathogenic bacteria found in the mouths of patients with periodontal disease, secretes an enzyme that is found in the brain tissue of Alzheimer’s patients at a much higher level that in patients without Alzheimer’s symptoms. In fact, some research has shown the risk of developing Alzheimers disease to be  6% higher in patients who have periodontitis than patients with healthy mouths.  In older patients with periodontal disease, 70% are more likely to present with Alzheimer’s disease.  It is a vicious cycle…. medications used to treat dementia cause xerostomia or dry mouth that leads to a decline in oral health and inflammation, coupled with the fact that Alzheimer’s patients lose interest in their oral home care routine.  Plaque and bacterial biofilms build up in the mouth causing an increased inflammatory response which leads to the bacteria entering the blood stream and eventually crossing the blood-brain barrier into the brain tissue.

It is important for us, as health care professionals, to understand this research and connection since there is a high prevalence of periodontal disease in our aging population.  With this population retaining their teeth and living longer, it is critical to be able to provide science based strategies to improve the oral health of our aging population to lower the risk of developing dementia as well as to slow the progression of the disease.  It is our duty, also, to provide education to dementia patients and their caregivers to reduce future risks of adverse health and oral outcomes.

If you want to learn more about what you can do to improve your oral health and lower your risk of disease, please call my office to set up a comprehensive evaluation.

Contact Us

Send Us an Email

chiropractic spine


Learn how we can help with your pain