Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in adults over 65 years of age, and it’s one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. But did you know there may be a link to oral health?
In 2019, a study was published in Science Advances by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It suggests a potential link between Alzheimer’s and periodontal bacteria, or the strain of bacteria that causes gum disease.
The researchers confirmed that these bacteria can travel from the mouth to the brain, and were found in the brain tissue, spinal fluid and saliva. Once there, the bacteria produce toxins that destroy neurons in the brain.
These findings add supporting evidence to the link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease. But, we need more research to understand the link between the two, or how bacteria from the mouth got there in the first place.
Research continues to support the importance of oral health for overall health, and both can worsen as we age if we ignore them.
Keeping the mouth healthy and managing gum disease is important to our oral and overall health throughout our lives. But, older adults can be more susceptible to infection if they have dry mouth, are a smoker, or take certain medications.
Older adults are at a higher risk of poor oral health because some factors can work against them causing their dental health to become less of a priority:
Many older adults don’t get a new dental plan after they retire (when they no longer have employer-sponsored dental benefits).
Medicare does not cover dental care, although some Medicare Advantage plans are available for purchase to cover dental care.
Dry mouth, tooth decay or tooth loss, and tooth sensitivity can contribute to poor nutrition.
A lack of transportation may make regular dental visits difficult.
So keep focus on your oral health because it affects your wellness. And the tips to keep your mouth healthy are those you should practice your whole life:
Brush twice every day with fluoride toothpaste;
Visit the dentist;
Drink water (it’s better for your whole body); and
Eat a healthy diet.