Recent studies suggest that people with gum disease may be at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 47 percent of adults 30 years and older have some form of periodontal disease ranging from mild to severe. From age 65 and older, 70% of adults have moderate to severe periodontal disease. Alzheimer’s currently affects an estimated 5.7 million Americans. It’s a form of dementia – a degenerative brain condition which leads to increasing difficulty with memory and behavior. Though it’s the sixth biggest killer in the country, researchers have been at a loss to identify a cause.

Research has found a connection between the bacteria known as Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis) found in a common type of gum disease to dementia. The bacteria could travel from the mouth to the brain through everyday activities such as brushing your teeth, chewing and eating.  P. Gingivalis has been discovered in the brain tissue of patients with dementia.  In addition to the bacteria, researchers have also found toxic enzymes produced by the bacteria known as gingipains that cause inflammation and destroy brain tissue.

The pharmaceutical company Cortexyme, which conducted recent studies, is currently working to develop an effective medicine to block P. Gingivalis from affecting the brain. This would hopefully slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s. Early clinical testing has shown positive results for this new drug. There was evidence that the medication was able to kill some of the periodontal bacteria traveling to the brain. Volunteers for the drug trial also showed signs of cognitive improvement.

The oral cavity is a part of the human body and should not be over looked when evaluating one’s overall health.  We have long known that periodontal disease leads to tooth loss, but this may have long term implications in maintaining good oral health for overall well-being.  The good news is that periodontal disease is both preventable and manageable.  So, the next time you think about cancelling your dental appointment or are too tired to floss, think about how you could be affecting your body.

Stay on schedule with regular dental visits and homecare and you will enjoy your golden years with a healthy smile.  Cape May Dental Associates is welcoming new patients and is focused on prevention and early detection of oral conditions. Please call (609)884-5335, follow us on Facebook, visit online at www.capemaydental.com or email Dr. Ee at contact@capemaydental.com with any questions.

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