How brushing your teeth can help to prevent Alzheimer’s
Research has suggested that there is a link between poor dental health care and Alzheimer’s. There is an increasing amount of evidence suggesting that gum (periodontal) disease could be a contributing factor to Alzheimer’s. In fact, a recent study has discovered that a form of bacteria associated with periodontal disease called Porphyromonas gingivalis or P. gingivalis, has been detected in the brains of those suffering with Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disorder affecting memory, thinking skills and eventually our ability to do the simplest of tasks. Here’s how maintaining good oral hygiene can impact not just our dental health, but our overall long-term health.
What exactly is gum disease?
Gum disease is not an uncommon condition, with most adults in the UK experiencing gum disease at least once in their life.
Symptoms of gum disease are usually swollen gums that are sore or infected. It might also be that your gums bleed when brushing your teeth, or you have bad breath. This initial phase of gum disease is called gingivitis.
Gingivitis is generally a reversible condition, however, if it goes by untreated it can create ‘sub-gingival’ pockets of bacteria between the tooth and gum. If this happens, it means that the gingivitis has evolved into periodontitis (gum disease).
The causes of gum disease can vary depending on the person, but common factors contributing to gum disease are smoking, certain medication, or poor food choices.
Aside from potentially causing tooth loss and further complications, Alzheimer’s is also thought to be a potential outcome of periodontitis. To prevent gum disease, good oral health including brushing twice and day and flossing are integral.
How does gum disease link to Alzheimer’s?
A study at the University of Central Lancashire, as well as other studies since, have discovered that the bacteria causing gum disease can journey from the mouth to the brain in mice. Once this bacterium has reached the brain, it produces all of the distinguishing elements of Alzheimer’s disease. Although this evidence is striking, it is important to remember that Alzheimer’s is also linked with various other conditions, not just gum disease alone.
Top tips for toothbrushing
With evidence suggesting a link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s, it is important to ensure we are brushing our teeth effectively to avoid periodontitis (gum disease).
See below for some simple steps you can take to ensure your daily dental routine is tip top:
Don’t be too rough
A common misconception with brushing our teeth is that being rough with the toothbrush cleans them more effectively. This is usually in an attempt to access those hard to reach areas, but harder is not better. Brushing too roughly can wear away the enamel of the tooth, so be gentle when brushing. You could even consider switching to an electric toothbrush to prevent being too harsh on your teeth.
Two minutes, twice a day
We brush our teeth to remove food debris and plaque from our teeth. If we didn’t brush, this would build up causing gum irritation and possibly gingivitis. Maintain your daily dental routine by brushing twice a day for two minutes, flossing prior to brushing and using a fluoride toothpaste.
Don’t miss out
Make every brush count! Ensure you clean every inch of your mouth each time you brush, including those hard to reach areas. Move the toothbrush methodically around your mouth, and don’t forget to brush your tongue to freshen your breath and remove further bacteria.
Remember your gum line
It’s not just your teeth that are vulnerable to the build-up of plaque, your gum line is also a sensitive area. Ensure you brush plaque away from this area as well as your teeth, flossing regularly to control the plaque build-up.
Get the right angle
Most people will brush freely without considering the angle of the toothbrush, but the way you position the brush can affect how well you clean your teeth. Use a circular action when brushing, pointing the brush towards the gum at a 45-degree angle – this will help to gently clean the gum line. When brushing the inside surfaces of your teeth, vertically tilt the brush whilst making a smaller, circular motion.
Whilst there is clear evidence to suggest a link between oral health and Alzheimer’s, it is important to remember that not everyone who has Alzheimer’s will have had gum disease, and not all of those who have suffered with gum disease will develop Alzheimer’s. For more advice on keeping your teeth healthy, click here.