As we kiss Summer goodbye and begin to welcome Autumn, we enter the World Alzheimer’s Month of September. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and is believed to affect nearly 50 million people worldwide. These numbers are rising with each passing year. If breakthroughs are not discovered, it is predicted that this figure could rise to 74.7 million by 2030, and over 131 million by 2050.
There are many useful articles on the internet suggesting ways in which we can help ourselves to avoid developing this disease, with many tips revolving around diet and exercise. Additionally, it has recently been suggested that keeping our gums healthy may also help to avoid Alzheimer’s.
Researchers from Chung Shan Medical University and the National Defense Medical Center, both in Taiwan, have completed a study which shows a link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease. The study used data from the National Health Insurance Program of Taiwan and examined people aged 50 or over who had a 10 year or longer history of periodontitis. Known as a ‘retrospective cohort study’, researchers checked whether they developed Alzheimer’s disease at a later date, comparing them with people who did not have chronic periodontitis. They discovered that these people did have a 70% increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s than people without chronic periodontitis. They concluded:
“Our findings support the notion that infectious diseases associated with low-grade inflammation, such as chronic periodontitis, may play a substantial role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease… These findings highlight the need to prevent progression of periodontal disease and promote healthcare services at the national level.”
The link between long-term periodontitis and Alzheimer’s was present even after researchers adjusted for other factors that might influence the development of Alzheimer’s, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and urban environment. Gum disease can lead on to all manner of unpleasant outcomes, including tooth loss, abscesses, bleeding gums and bad breath. With these findings linking gum disease to Alzheimer’s, there is even more reason to make sure you are taking proper care of your oral health and visiting us for regular routine examinations.
It is known that excessive amounts of sugar consumption can also lead to gum disease, and it is worth noting again that recent studies have found a link between sugar and Alzheimer’s – indeed, the study analysed the diets of 2,226 pensioners over 7 years and found that those who added more than 2 and a half spoonful’s of sugar to their cups of tea or coffee were 54% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those who added none. Those who drank sugary, fizzy drinks or fruit juices, or added sugar to their bowls of cereal or puddings also faced significant increased risks. As dentists, we are always telling you to cut down on your sugar intake, but this is yet another health implication to bolster our argument.
To reduce your risk of gum disease, you need to make sure that you are maintaining a proper oral healthcare routine:
• Brush your teeth gently, twice a day, for at least 2 minutes.
• Use dental floss and mouthwash
• Stick to a healthy diet
• Drink lots of water
• Attend routine dental examinations here at the practice
If you would like any advice on how to keep your teeth and gums healthy, please call us on 020 8958 0136 to book an appointment. In the meantime, if your gums are bleeding or you are experiencing any kind of pain in your mouth, do not hesitate to pop in. We can take fast, appropriate action on gum disease – the earlier we catch it, the better!