Much has been made in the news lately of a possible link between oral health and Alzheimer’s disease. Catchy headlines are making the rounds and suddenly, everyone is talking about the relationship between their teeth and their future mental fitness. While by no means do we promise to take an exhaustive look at the topic (we are not after all in the business of medically reviewing research papers) enough folks have mentioned reading about this in the news that it seems appropriate to have a conversation. Is there a link between your dental care and Dementia?
What’s most important whenever we read about any new study being released, whatever the topic, is that we ask ourselves a few pertinent questions. Things like who published the study? Was the sample base of persons included both broad and representative of the general population? You might even want to ask who funded the study? The answers to these questions and others like them will inform how seriously we interpret the results. After all, we could release a study that says research shows Brinkley Dental is the best in the business and while that’s true – if we only sampled our staff and family and friends – that’s not a very “representative” study!
The report on Dementia and dental care was published in the journal Science Advances in January 2019. It’s a hefty study. For our purposes, in addition to reviewing that study, much of it very heavy with medical terms, we also looked at www.theconversation.com which provides a “laypersons” synopsis which seems to point out many of the concerns we raised in our second paragraph. The study was funded by a large pharmaceutical company and while a “a type of bacteria called Porphyromonas gingivalis – or P. gingivalis – which is associated with gum disease, has been found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease,” it is equally true that “The risks of gum disease are significantly increased in people with poor oral hygiene. And factors such as smoking, medication, genetics, food choices, puberty and pregnancy can all contribute towards the development of the condition.” Could these other factors also influence the rate at which Alzheimer’s develops and whom it affects? Of course. Research also shows that “other types of bacteria and the Herpes type I virus can also be found in Alzheimer’s disease brains. People with Down’s syndrome are also at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, as are people who have had a severe head injury.(Further) several conditions associated with cardiovascular disease can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.” (1) Not necessarily addressed is that we also know managing dental care in patients who are already showing signs of the disease can be challenging which in turn, might put them at higher risk.
In other words, there are many things that might contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s and while there could be a link between oral health care and the disease – this one published article should not be cause for panic. Developing a good oral health care routine is ALWAYS your best line of defense against any number of health conditions and will ALWAYS help to ensure at least the potential for strong, healthy teeth. The Brinkley Dental Team in Brampton is ALWAYS happy to help you manage all of your oral health care – now and in your future. Give us a call, book an appointment or drop in to book in person. In the meantime, as always we’ll end with our gentle reminder, “don’t forget to be a BFF with your mouth and Brush that SMILE!”