Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Depression, Anxiety Linked to Periodontal Disease

Posted on Dec 21, 2023 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

If you care about your health, this will be an important article to read. But be forewarned, there are a lot of little details that will eventually connect like puzzle pieces and (hopefully) end up providing a clear picture of what’s going on inside of you.

It’s a simple fact that all bodies have bacteria. While bacteria, over years past, have been looked upon as “bad guys,” science has now determined that some of these bacteria are actually important to healthy operation of the body.

Let’s begin with microbiome. These are like tiny liquid clusters of bacteria, fungi and viruses. These little cesspools are actually beneficial to digestive and skin health. But, in the mouth, which houses over 700 species of bacteria, weeding the bad from the good depends on maintaining a healthy body, which includes a healthy mouth.

Years ago, oral health recommendations were to brush twice a day, floss daily topped off by swishing with a mouthwash to kill lingering bacteria. There has been some pullback on the use of mouthwashes, however.

While they can be beneficial for those who have oral challenges (such as smokers or people who are undergoing chemotherapy), killing off the bulk of bacteria in the mouth also kills off the good bacteria. Although it’s not being said to NOT use mouthwashes, once a day is ample. Twice a day may be too much.

But, let’s go back to the bad bacteria. Research has found that certain oral bacteria can spurn the development of depression and anxiety. The team analyzed the relationship between salivary and tongue microbiomes to anxiety and depression. Findings showed that certain bacteria had a higher presence in people who had anxiety or depression.

As far as triggering mental disorders, the involvement of gum disease bacteria isn’t found in a clearcut path. The direct pathogens are still not determined. However, it has long been know that the inflammatory bacteria of periodontal disease is able to enter the bloodstream through diseased tissues. This means that the brain, which is fed by blood vessels, can be subject to the reactions these bacteria can cause in other areas of the body.

For example, the inflammatory nature of gum disease bacteria has long been linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and arthritis, along with others. It has been found that these bacteria can either trigger or worsen certain reactions that cause serious diseases. This makes the mouth a rather important part of having a healthy body.

It is also known that periodontal infection can accelerate cognitive impairments. Thus, funding is being devoted to support more in-depth investigations into just how it’s connected.

Findings thus far have been so concerning that the National Institute on Aging is supporting this research to the tune of $1.85 million through a grant to the University of Alabama Birmingham.

Their studies will focus on determining how periodontitis (severe gum disease) impacts primary immune cells in the brain and how they may activate the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s.

The concerns surrounding Alzheimer’s are becoming continually more dire, with an estimated 13 million being effected by 2050 in the U.S. alone. Since nearly half of American adults over the age of 30 have some level of periodontal disease, the risks for mental health needs, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, should make oral wellness a top priority.

Begin by knowing the signs and symptoms of gum disease, which are:

• Red, swollen or tender gums

• Seeing blood in the sink when brushing 

• Receded gums

• Loose or separating teeth

• Pus pockets on gum tissues

• Sores in the mouth

• Persistent bad breath

If you have any of these, know that these problems will only worsen without treatment. As a matter of fact, gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss.

Begin with a thorough exam in our Asheville periodontal dental office. We offer advanced technology that helps to minimize the course of treatment and treatment time. Additionally, we offer oral and IV sedation (“twilight sleep”) for optimal comfort.

Call 828-274-9440.



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