Dementia is one of the most debilitating and dignity sapping diseases known to man. While we are still unsure of how to prevent the disease from occurring and research is ongoing in trying to find a cure, there are a few things that can be done to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life. Recent research indicates that there is a much stronger link between developing Alzheimer’s disease and oral health than previously thought.
Using historic data is where many of the studies have started as it takes many years to gather enough data to present articles on a long term disease such as Alzheimer’s. Looking at data that came from the Swedish Twin Registry, the team found 109 cases of twins where one had developed dementia where the other had not, out of 20,000 cases. Previously it has been found that Alzheimer’s is a genetic disease and that if one identical twin develops the disease there is a 60% chance that the other will develop it also.
Looking solely at health and dental records of the twins where one had developed Alzheimer’s where the other had not there were some staggering results. The link between those who had suffered from periodontal disease and who later went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease was much higher than those who had not. While this research was not conclusive it has been enough to push others to research the possible link between gum disease and dementia.
More recent studies have fallen trap of being very small case studies and so the link that they indicate cannot be conclusively stated, however larger research studies are underway that may take time to come out but will provide a more stable evidence base either way. The other problem with the smaller studies is that they are largely unable to use data of people before and after they develop Alzheimer’s. Yes, they are able to show that those with dementia are more likely to have the gum disease bacteria in their mouth than those without but this could occur after dementia has taken hold.
As more research is undertaken the link seems to be stronger and stronger and it could be a vital step in trying to prevent Alzheimer’s developing in those without the genetic link. The reason the link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s is so strong is that the hypothesis for how the two interact is one that makes a lot of sense. The idea is that the bacteria in the mouth can easily enter the blood stream and will be transported to other parts of the body. The effects that it has on oral hygiene will then occur in the brain and start Alzheimer’s developing.
Further research is vital to conclude whether the link is real, however as more research is undertaken it seems to point towards there being a link. As a result of this oral hygiene in those with the disease and those without is more important than ever.