Periodontal Disease, Your Memory, and Your Health

Since we were children, we’ve all been told “brush your teeth.” Not only do we have to brush our teeth but we have to do it twice a day!  Why? Well, aside from the obvious removal of food from your teeth and improving your breath when you kiss someone, it turns out that there is a health benefit.

Poor oral hygiene, at best, leads to gingivitis, and at worst, leads to periodontal disease. Gingivitis is a mild form of periodontal disease and is often corrected with improved oral hygiene and regular dental visits. But left unchecked it can lead to periodontal disease. 

What is Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease also referred to as gum disease is a group of conditions that cause inflammation and destruction of the gums, alveolar bone, and other structures that support the teeth. The etiology is complex involving the presence of pathogenic bacteria found in dental plaque and individual variation in host immune response.  It is a common source of chronic systemic infection in humans.

For a long time now we have known about the relationship of periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease with being recognized as a core process in atherosclerosis.  Often times cardiologists and cardiac surgeons will require their patients to be monitored for and treated for periodontal disease. 

Does Periodontal Disease Cause Alzheimer’s

Researchers are now discovering that chronic inflammation, as measured by blood inflammatory markers, is associated with increased risk for cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. This is not to say that periodontal disease directly causes Alzheimer’s disease but rather is a contributing factor to one’s susceptibility to the disease process. Without getting too much into the science behind the causes of dementia, researchers surmise that bacteria originating from periodontal disease get released into the body, cross the blood brain barrier causing the vascular deterioration and eventual neurodegeneration in the brain. 

How to Treat Periodontal Disease

So what should you do if you have periodontal disease? Unfortunately, the results of periodontal disease are not reversible. However, it can be maintained. Initially your dentist or periodontist will scale and root plane your teeth (usually done under local anesthesia) to remove plaque and calculus build up in the space between your teeth and gums (dentists call this area “pockets”). The removal of plaque and calculus will reduce the body’s inflammatory response eventually limiting the depth of the pockets and reducing your chance for the disease process from advancing. This not only saves your teeth but can also reduce your chance for needing a cardiologist or a neurologist. So see your dentist on a regular basis, brush and floss every day, and keep your smile and your memories!