If like most patients, you’ve probably heard about the importance of brushing and flossing while visiting dentists in Aloha, OR. In addition to keeping teeth and gums looking and feeling their best, you’ve probably also heard that failing to tend to your oral health increases the risk for developing a range of chronic diseases that include everything from heart disease and stroke to diabetes and dementia.
Of course what often goes unexplained is what exactly links the seemingly separate issues of our oral health and our overall health. How can failing to brush and floss enough possibly cause us to develop heart disease or suffer a stroke? Well, to understand this mouth/body connection better, let’s take a look at what one recent study says connects gum disease to dementia risk.
According to a study published in the journal Science Advances, maintaining quality oral health may work to slow down the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have discovered the presence of the bacteria P. gingivialis, the oral bacteria most responsible for the development to tooth decay and gum disease, in the brains of patients dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.
Understanding the Connection
So, wait? Bacteria from the mouth can travel to the brain?
In fact, yes. While researchers don’t fully understand how this occurs, they do have one prevalent theory.
P. gingivialis, or more commonly referred to as plaque, builds up on the surface of our teeth and along the gum line when we fail to properly brush and floss. These plaque deposits eventually harden into tartar, the yellowish substance that dental hygienists scrap off your teeth during dental cleanings.
When left on our teeth, plaque begins to irritate gum tissue, leading to the development of inflammation. When gum tissue becomes inflamed, it begins to swell which leads to cracks appearing in the tissue. These cracks are why you might notice blood in your spit after brushing or flossing.
Researchers believe that cracks in gum tissue provide a means for P. gingivialis to enter the bloodstream where it can begin moving throughout the body. Once free to roam, the bacteria can begin to take root in other parts of the body. Other studies have detected the presence of P. gingivialis in the heart valves, joints, and brains of patients who have heart disease, arthritis, and dementia.
How Does Oral Bacteria Affect Our Brains?
If we accept that oral bacteria can travel from the mouth to the brain, the next question becomes how does that bacteria affect our cognitive function?
In the study, researchers discovered that toxic substances produced by P. gingivialis called gingipains correlate with the ubiquitin and tau levels in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s. Ubiquitin and tau are two types of proteins that are linked to the development of Alzheimer’s.
The release of gingipains by P. gingivialis causes a reduction in ubiquitin and tau levels in the brain. These proteins are vital for helping to protect the brain from damage caused by inflammation.
So, in short, P. gingivialis travels from the mouth through our bloodstream to the brain. Once there, it produces toxic substances that interfere with the brain’s ability to fight off infection and prevent inflammation. Inflammation then occurs, leading to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
This same type of connection can also be found when examining the role gum disease plays in the development of other diseases such as heart disease and even diabetes.
Visiting Dentists in Aloha, OR Helps
Regular dental care, combined with quality daily oral hygiene, remains the most effective option for preventing gum disease and lowering your risk for the types of systemic diseases linked to poor oral health.
While we might not think of visiting dentists in Aloha, OR as part of ensuring a healthy body, the evidence remains pretty clear – our oral health really does matter.