Alzheimer’s Disease and Dental Health
Do you or someone you love have Alzheimer’s Disease?
November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. For this month’s article, we are going to talk about the connections between our oral health and Alzheimer’s disease.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s Disease is a devastating and progressive disease. It is one of the most common dementia-related illnesses, accounting for 60-80 percent of cases among people ages 65 and older. Dementia is a general term for a collection of symptoms that are associated with a decline in one’s memory, thinking, reasoning, and judgment. It can also impact fine motor skills. Alzheimer’s is a brain disease marked by significant dementia. It is defined by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America as: “a progressive brain disorder that impacts memory, thinking and language skills, and the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.” When memory loss is more serious, we may forget recent events and names of people who are close to us. We may seem confused by familiar objects and situations and struggle to remember how to complete tasks that are routine for us. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, there may be personality changes. People may act or speak in ways that are out of character for them. They may become agitated, aggressive, or display poor judgment. Because of the stigma associated with age-related memory loss, people may hesitate to admit they are having trouble remembering. Often, people think they or their loved ones are forgetful simply because they’re getting older. But contrary to popular belief, dementia is not part of the normal aging process. This is important to understand because early signs of cognitive impairment may be ignored or missed, leading to delayed diagnosis, fewer treatment options to slow the progression, and worse outcomes.
What is the connection between Alzheimer’s and oral health?
The connection between Alzheimer’s Disease and oral health is two-fold. On the one hand, a symptom of the disease may be that we forget how to complete familiar tasks, which often include our normal activities of daily living like brushing and flossing our teeth. Over time, poor dental hygiene can result in tooth decay and gum disease. It is vitally important for caregivers of someone suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease to ensure the individual keeps up with regular dental cleanings and check-ups. On the other hand, some research has shown a possible connection between the bacteria that cause periodontal disease and the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. It is believed that bacteria found in the mouth can travel in the bloodstream and reach the brain. While more research is needed, the current theory is that over time, the introduction of these pathogens into our brains can cause inflammation and destroy nerve cells, leading to memory loss. There are large studies being conducted to help clarify the exact relationship between poor oral health and Alzheimer’s Disease so that treatments may be developed that could potentially help some people avoid developing the disease. So, if you need yet another reason to keep on top of brushing, flossing, and your regular schedule of two professional dental cleanings and check-ups per year, it may just help you avoid Alzheimer’s Disease. The professionals at Today’s Dental can ensure your teeth and gums stay clean and healthy. Call today to make your appointment at one of our many convenient locations around the Omaha Metro.