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Recent evidence points to a link between poor dental health and Alzheimer's disease. A research team led by two professors at the University of Central Lancashire School of Medicine and Dentistry examined 10 patients with dementia and 10 patients without dementia. The investigators discovered that the brains of all 10 patients with Alzheimer's showed the negative effects of a bacteria called Porphyromonas gingivalis, which enters the blood stream when a person chews food, brushes his or her teeth or undergoes invasive dental treatment. The patients without dementia had no sign of these effects.
P. gingivalis is the no. 1 cause of chronic gum disease. After entering through the mouth, the bacteria is directly transported to the brain, triggering the immune system to release chemicals that can kill neurons in areas of the brain susceptible to Alzheimer's. This damage leads to symptoms like memory deterioration and confusion.
"We are working on the theory that when the brain is repeatedly exposed to bacteria and/or their debris from our gums, subsequent immune responses may lead to nerve cell death and possibly memory loss," says Sim Singhrao?, Ph.D. "Thus, continued visits to dental hygiene professionals throughout one's life may be more important than currently envisaged with inferences for health outside of mouth only."
Preventing gum disease
Though associating gum disease with Alzheimer's is a relatively new concept, gum disease has long been thought to be linked to other ailments, such as heart disease, artery blockages and stroke, according to the American Dental Association.
Gum disease is caused by bacteria and, in its first stages, it is reversible, according to Dental Fear Central. However, as the disease progresses, the teeth lose contact with the bone in the jaw, and they become loose or eventually fall out.
Brushing and flossing teeth regularly and properly are very important when concerned about gum disease. The source recommends sticking to the "Bus Route Rule," when brushing - that is, always starting and stopping in the same part of the mouth.
Regularly visiting the dentist will keep a patient well-informed about his or her threat of gum disease. Checkups usually involve a gum evaluation, during which the dentist will note the color and firmness of the gums. By using what is called a "periodontal probe," dentists are able to measure the space between the teeth and gums. Many people who lack dental care because they have no dental insurance may benefit from looking into discount dental plans as another way to fund their care.
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