Longmont Dental Loft staff at Periodontal Disease Class

Periodontal Disease and Alzheimer’s

Earlier this month, the team at Longmont Dental Loft traveled to Phoenix, Arizona to participate in a class on periodontal disease.  The class was amazing and there were a lot of eye-opening things that we learned. For example there is a link between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s disease.  The amount of new research we have on systemic diseases and the relationship to the oral cavity is incredible.

As health care providers we already knew that oral health affects other parts of the body.  However, the correlation between periodontal disease an Alzheimer’s took us by surprise.   

Background on periodontal disease

The breakdown of the gums and bone that support a tooth is called periodontal disease.  There is a genetic disposition for the disease along with several other factors that can cause it.   Some factors of getting it are age, extended periods without seeing a dentist, smoking, alcoholic beverages, diet, uncontrolled diabetes, and other systemic diseases.  The breakdown of gums and bone will ultimately cause tooth loss if left if not properly managed.

How do you know if you have periodontal disease?

When you come into our office for a hygiene therapy appointment our hygienist will take a probe on each tooth.   During this test, we place a probe in between the tooth and the pocket and measure the depth.  A 1-3 mm pocket is healthy.  However, probing depths of 4+ may indicate active periodontal disease.  In addition to increased probing depth, bleeding is another common sign of periodontal disease.  Bleeding during probing is a sign of inflammation, which can be an indicator of periodontal disease. After being diagnosed with periodontal disease you always have it.  However, the good news is it can be managed effectively.  

How periodontal diseases affects the rest of the body

The pocket around the tooth is highly permeable and bacteria can penetrate and travel through the bloodstream.  Of course, when the pockets are deeper, that means they can hold more bacteria.  Unfortunately, when bacteria is in the pockets, it doesn’t just stay there.  The bacteria will enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body.   They will then contribute to inflammation in other parts of the body besides the mouth.  This is a major concern as inflammation is the root of many diseases.  As health care providers, we make sure that this disease is treated and arrested. If not treated, the system ramifications are shocking. 

More about Alzheimer’s and Periodontal disease

Researchers have found the bacteria,porphyromonas gingivalis in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients.  These bacteria may have been originally in the mouth and traveled to the brain via the bloodstream.  Therefore, there could be a link between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s.  In fact, 96% of the people that they tested the brain tissue on, Gingipains, the toxic enzyme produced from porphyromonas gingivalis was present. Thus, the bacteria found in our mouths are also found in the brain. 

This commonality is astounding, and it shows that oral health affects the rest of our body.

Managing Periodonatal Disease

The main purpose of going to see a hygienist on a regular basis is cleaning of the root and pocket around the tooth.  This is even more important for people with periodontal disease.  Typically, people with periodontal disease need to visit the dentist every 3 months for periodontal therapy.  One of the major reasons for more frequent appointments has to do with there being more space in the pockets.  Since there is more space it’s easier for bacteria to get trapped. 

What does this mean for me?

Nearly half of adults over 30 years old have periodontal disease. By the age of 65 this number increases to 68%. This shows how important frequent hygiene therapy and dental exams are as they can prevent periodontal disease for people that don’t have it and prevent it from getting worse for people that do have it.  And as mentioned, bacteria from the mouth can travel to the rest of the body so it’s important to manage periodontal disease diligently.

Besides seeing the dentist regularly for teeth cleanings, it’s also essential to brush and floss as part of your home hygiene regimen.  This will lower the bacteria levels.  However, keep in mind that you can’t clean as deep at home as we can clean during your periodontal therapy appointments at our office. 

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