Did you know that good oral hygiene can help keep your mind healthy and lower your chances of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? According to new research, gum disease increases your chances of developing dementia by at least 70%. These findings are based on research using a sample size of 28,000 people. The study indicated that people who brushed their teeth regularly were less likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease (or periodontal disease), is a condition that occurs when plaque triggers inflammation and infection of the gum line. If untreated, the disease may progress to affect the bone that surrounds and supports your teeth. Your teeth may become loose which can, unfortunately, lead to tooth extraction.

In severe cases, gum disease may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Researchers believe that untreated gum disease could eventually cause damage to one’s brain. Before this discovery, gum disease had already been linked to other health conditions like early cancer and heart disease.  

How does gum disease cause dementia or Alzheimer’s disease?

The bacterium that causes gum disease can easily enter the bloodstream through normal activities such as eating, brushing or even chewing. The bacteria may also enter the bloodstream through invasive dental treatment. As soon as the bacterium is in the blood flow, it makes its way to other parts of the body including the brain. Once it reaches the brain, it triggers an immune reaction that leads to the excessive production of chemicals that tend to kill the brain cells. When this happens, the patient may experience various symptoms such as memory loss and confusion. These are typical symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Research studies on the relationship between oral hygiene and dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

According to research conducted by a group of students led by Dr St John Crean and Simon from The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) School of Medicine and Dentistry in England, gum disease increases the chances of developing dementia. The researchers examined brain tissue samples from ten participants with dementia and ten without the disease.

They identified that four of their patients with dementia had gum disease bacteria (lipopolysaccharides) in their brain tissue and none of the patients from the other group (without dementia) were found with the bacteria.

The relationship between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease is still underway. Taking into account that the above-mentioned research was conducted on a small size of 20 people, the results could as well have occurred by chance. According to Dr Sim K Singhrao, the Senior Research Person at UCLan, scientists are still undertaking further research to determine whether poor oral hygiene can lead to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in healthy people. They are determining whether the repeated exposure of the brain to the gum bacteria can kill nerve cells and ultimately lead to memory loss.

While the sample size was indeed small, a recently released and more in-depth Taiwanese study also corroborates this view of a significant relationship between dementia and gum disease.

Researchers from the Chung Shan Medical University undertook a study on 9,300 patients who had been diagnosed with chronic periodontitis (Chronic periodontitis is a common gum disease). These patients were compared to another group of 18,700 participants who were not diagnosed with the gum disease. The research took ten years whereby 115 of the patients diagnosed with gum disease developed Alzheimer’s disease same as 208 people from the other group without gum disease.

The students of Chung Shan Medical University led by Chang-Kai Chen stated that the study supported the claim that long-term gum disease may cause neurodegenerative changes that slowly but progressively result in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. These results were published in the journal “Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy”, indicating that people diagnosed with a long term gum disease had a 70 percent chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease during their lifetime.

If it is proven that poor oral hygiene can cause either of these two conditions, then good dental hygiene would offer a straightforward way to help prevent the progression of dementia. It is important for people to ensure that they maintain their oral health by brushing their teeth regularly and visit dental hygiene professionals frequently.

Gum Disease Treatment At Savina Dental Clinics

Gum treatment requires treating of active gum and jaw bone disease. The primary goal of gum disease treatment is to slow or better still, stop the disease from getting worse. There are different stages of gum disease ranging from gingivitis to advanced periodontitis, which requires different methods of treatment.

At Savina, we use a three-pronged approach to treating gum disease before resorting to surgery:

Ultrasonic root planing and curettage

To fight gum disease, we use an ultrasonic scaler (a wand like instrument that emits a soft ultrasonic vibration through a small scaling tip) which reduces tartar, plaque and bacteria found in the pockets of your mouth. This tool is used in conjunction with water to remove the dangerous calculus (hardened plaque) around the gum lines.

We use curettage to aid in the removal of chronically inflamed tissue, bacterial affected areas and displaced calculus. This quickens the healing process of the affected gum area.

Laser disinfection and biostimulation

Laser disinfection is a high tech way to treat mild gum disease including gingivitis or previously treated areas which have become infected again. It also helps fight bad breath (technically called halitosis). The main benefits of laser disinfection are less recovery time, swelling and pain which is associated with more traditional forms of gum disease treatment.

Laser biostimulation is performed after laser treatment to enable the treated area to heal faster and with less pain by reducing inflammation. It is an area of treatment that is becoming more and more popular in all areas of the medical profession.

Periodontal ligament and bone regeneration procedures

The last two decades have seen an explosion of knowledge and new techniques to regenerate periodontal tissues. The periodontal ligament is a thin, fibrous ligament that connects the tooth root to the bony socket.

The periodontal ligament is an ultra fine fibrous ligament that is used to connect a tooth root with its bony socket. The last 20 years have seen unprecedented advancements in dental technologies and techniques to regenerate gum tissue. Before then, it was impossible to halt gum tissue growth on newly cleaned roots before there was time for the periodontal ligament to grow and reattach itself to the surface of the root.

This seemingly perennial problem was solved by the use of “barrier membranes” which can be described in everyday terms as band aids placed under the gum. Not only do they stop the growth of the tissue cells to allow the ligaments to regenerate, but they also dissolve in a timely fashion once regeneration has completed allowing the tissue growth to begin again on the now healthy periodontal pocket.

Book Your Appointment Today

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Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at their disposal.

If you would like to book a consultation at Savina Dental, please book your appointment using this form.

You can also read more about all the preventative or restorative dentistry treatments at Savina Dental Clinic or check out our customer testimonials section.

Dr Joseph Xuereb
Dental & Implant Surgeon. Principal
Savina Dental Clinics

Joseph Xuereb
Joseph Xuereb
Principal Dental Surgeon & Owner of Savina Dental Clinics, Dr Joseph Xuereb BChD (Hons), MFGDP(UK), MGDS RCS(Eng), FFGDP RCS(UK), FICD is a general dental practitioner with a special interest in Implant and Restorative Dentistry. Dr Joseph & the teams' full biographical information can be found here.