Alzheimer’s disease and the oral cavity

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative disease, the most common form of dementia that progressively affects the patient.

The majority of people affected are elderly and the onset of the disease will affect their ability to concentrate, memory, intelligence and communication skills.

The causes of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease are not completely known, but there are theories including the degeneration of neurons with age and the slowing down of physiological functioning through the loss of neurotransmitters.

Studies have shown that a large proportion of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, regardless of the stage of the disease, have gingivitis in the oral cavity.

Gingivitis is a chronic disease, an inflammatory reaction of the soft tissue, especially around the tooth cartilage.

Gingivitis is caused by the accumulation of bacterial plaque, mainly due to a lack of proper hygiene.

Bacteria stagnate both on the hard surfaces of the teeth and in the soft tissues. The tooth-gum junction, in particular, is where plaque builds up more easily, as it is a retentive area that is harder to clean.

The link between gingivitis and Alzheimer’s disease has been demonstrated by researchers who have concluded that people with dementia have increased levels of Porphyromonas gingivalis in the brain, the same bacterium that is directly responsible for gingivitis.

Bacteria normally exist in the oral cavity. However, their levels are in most cases not high enough to cause inflammation and then destruction of hard and soft tissues.

When the bacteria in question enter the bloodstream as a result of chewing or even brushing teeth.

In practice, however, the risk of it entering the general circulation remains fairly low. In general, these are isolated cases where patients already suffer from associated pathologies.

Signs of gingivitis are:

Increased gum volume – the term gingivitis defines increased gum volume. This overgrowth can be reversed with proper treatment, including a meticulous hygiene protocol.

Bleeding – may occur even in the absence of gum inflammation and may accompany the act of chewing, brushing or, in cases of aggravated gum disease, occur spontaneously.

Change in gum color – normally the gums are a pale pink color, varying according to race. An inflamed gum changes both texture and appearance, becoming redder and softer to the touch.

However, once the Porphyromonas gingivitis bacteria are in circulation, they can easily pass through the vessels and into the blood supplying the vasculature of the brain.

The body reacts and tries to fight the bacteria in order to prevent premature destruction of the neuron.

However, in the case of increased bacteremia, the toxins destroy the nerve cell. The changes in Alzheimer’s include memory loss, changes in behavior and personality and a decrease in IQ.

Thus, the human body is complex and the changes that occur in the oral cavity affect the whole body and can affect the digestive, circulatory and even the nervous system.

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