Alzheimer and periodontal disease: risk factor

Did you know that periodontal disease can nearly double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s? This is confirmed by several epidemiological studies conducted worldwide, which demonstrate that periodontitis can increase the risk of cognitive decline and more specifically the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 1.5 to 2 times.

We previously discussed the association between Alzheimer’s and periodontitis, explaining the evolution of both pathologies and their coexistence. In this new article, we will delve into what the main link is between the two diseases, as recent research points primarily to a single risk factor: inflammation.

Dr. Liñares himself explained in podcast number 6 of the San Andrés 90 channel how the health of our gums and the progression of periodontal disease can affect our overall health, specifically how it has been determined that the coexistence of this pathology with Alzheimer’s has its roots in an inflammatory process. Here we will delve into this to shed some light on the matter.

Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and its relationship with oral health

It is true that the origin of Alzheimer’s is still unknown, although many studies point to both genetic factors and possible environmental mechanisms that determine the development of this neurodegenerative disease, which manifests through cognitive decline and behavioral disorders.

Another possible cause is the reduction in brain production of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which leads to a deterioration in the performance of the cholinergic circuits of the brain system.

On the other hand, the most important risk factor in Alzheimer’s is that it usually occurs in elderly patients, although it is a degenerative disease that can lead to underlying symptoms even 20 years before clinical diagnosis.

This is one of the most important issues that has prompted researchers and scientists worldwide to join forces, seeking to find methodologies that make early detection possible in order to treat patients even long before the onset of the first symptoms of the disease.

What is one of the avenues of study in this regard? Neuroinflammation is highly involved in the progression of Alzheimer’s, and that is why the latest lines of research connecting this disease with the development of severe gingival problems such as periodontitis point to the reduction of inflammation as a factor capable of delaying cognitive decline.

Inflammation as the link between Alzheimer’s and periodontal disease

Alzheimer’s and periodontitis are diseases whose association has been studied for many years. However, it is now that more solid studies have been available, which, thanks to experimentation in humans, have been able to evidence their connection.

One of the connections is a purely physiological fact, which is the proximity between the brain and the mouth, something that facilitates bacteria to much more easily cross the blood-brain barrier.

Furthermore, the approach to this association should be understood as bidirectional. On the one hand, progressive cognitive impairment leads people beginning to suffer from Alzheimer’s to drastically reduce their good oral hygiene habits, which affects their oral health and increases the chances of developing periodontitis.

On the other hand, the inflammatory process secondary to periodontitis could induce neuroinflammatory phenomena that favor the onset of Alzheimer’s.

In this latter sense, several studies suggest that the main bacterial pathogen of periodontitis, Porphyromonas gingivalis, is capable of reproducing the pathophysiological processes associated with Alzheimer’s through its gingipain toxins.

Bacteria can enter the bloodstream causing bacteremia, producing systemic inflammation throughout the body, and promoting immunoinflammatory-based processes such as cognitive decline.

Therefore, several countries, through different research companies, are pursuing the etiology of Alzheimer’s and proposing therapeutic alternatives, giving much more weight to the need to care for gum health.

Improving oral health to prevent Alzheimer’s and periodontal disease

Since inflammatory processes appear to be behind the connection between Alzheimer’s and periodontal disease, and it has been evidenced that patients with periodontitis are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s, it is not trivial to point out that proper oral health and hygiene is vital for our overall health, both now and in the future.

Therefore, patients with early symptoms of Alzheimer’s should undergo very thorough evaluations of their oral health to address any problems their gums may present, as the course and progression of their disease have a very high impact on their morbidity and disability, resulting in a high degree of dependence for tasks as routine as oral hygiene.

This is why it is so important to care for this aspect in Alzheimer’s patients; not only to prevent the onset of periodontitis, but also to prevent the progression of the neurodegenerative process.

Finally, we must emphasize the importance of promoting good oral health in the adult population, especially those with risk factors for neurodegenerative diseases, as in Spain, the rate of patients with periodontitis exceeds 65% in those over 55 years of age, and the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is between 4 and 9%, with an incidence that doubles every 5 years from the age of 65.

Consult with specialists

Do you have doubts about how to address the care of your mouth at this age? Do you think that the health of your gums has deteriorated over time? Are there cases of Alzheimer’s disease in your family that require special care regarding oral health?

Do not hesitate to contact us to resolve any questions or to schedule an appointment with the team at the Antonio Liñares Clinic.

As experts in periodontics, they will help you improve not only your oral health but also your overall health. Contact us!

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