Nov 15, 2012
For Alzheimer’s awareness month we will continue our series on how oral health and brain health are related. Today your dental office will discuss how periodontal disease can affect the health of your brain.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease presents in multiple stages, the first of which is gingivitis, and is treatable. Any infection that affects the periodontal tissues – meaning the gum tissues, alveolar bone, and the ligaments that connect the two – is referred to as periodontal disease, or gum disease. The bacteria that cause infection build up over time as a result of the lack of proper oral hygiene. As the gum tissue begins to break down, you will notice a swelling and redness in the gums. If left untreated gums will become tender to the touch, and bleed easily. In the advanced stages of gum disease the ligaments connecting gums and teeth become so degraded that teeth loosen, and oftentimes become completely detached, resulting in tooth loss.
Immune Responses and Your Brain
The greatest connection between gum disease and brain health has been found in the body’s immune response. As the body attempts to fight off the bacteria that weaken gum tissues, the immune response that causes gums to swell can sometimes cause brain tissues to swell as well. Barriers are formed between the brain and body that help keep harmful disease and pathogens from entering the brain, but the substances within the body that cause inflammation are not held back by this barrier, which is why inflammation causing diseases or infections are especially harmful to brain tissues, and by extension the cognitive processes. Numerous studies have been conducted confirming that patients with cases of periodontal disease are more likely to suffer from decreased cognitive functions, including those indicative of Alzheimer’s.
Care for Your Brain Today
While brushing and flossing are crucial to maintaining oral health, as you age it becomes even more important that you carry out these tasks correctly. In addition to your at-home oral hygiene rituals, visiting your dentist for regular dental check-ups is the best way to ensure that you have avoided the early stages of gum disease. Schedule your dental cleaning and checkup with our dental office today by calling (804) 417-7203. We welcome patients from and surrounding communities.