Alzheimer’s and Oral Health

Posted by Louis E. Paulerio, D.D.S. on Dec 15 2022, 11:29 PM

What is Gum Disease?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gum disease (or periodontal disease) is an infection that causes inflammation and infection of the tissue and bone that surround the teeth. There are two main types of gum disease, gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is when the gums become red, swollen, and bleed. Gingivitis is reversible with proper daily home care and routine dental visits. Periodontitis is the more severe form of gum disease. Periodontitis is when the tissue and bone begin to pull away from the teeth. The destruction of the tissue and bone can cause teeth to loosen and potentially fall out.

In a 2012 study in the Journal of Periodontology, 47.2% of adults over 30 years old suffer from mild, moderate, or severe periodontitis. The risk of periodontal disease increases with age, with 70.1% of adults over 60 years or older having periodontal disease.

What causes Gum Disease?

Bacteria in the mouth cause gum disease. The bacteria in your mouth form a sticky plaque that adheres to your tooth surface. These plaques are clear and hard to see; however, at Dr. Paulerio’s, every patient has the plaque disclosed with a disclosing solution so you can see where they are. Plaques can be easily removed with daily oral hygiene. When these plaques are left to fester, they can turn into tartar. Tartar is hard and more visible than plaque. Both plaque and tarter play a role in tissue swelling and bleeding.  

A combination of different bacteria causes both types of gum disease. Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis) is a more common bacteria in the mouth. When these bacteria are fed, they create toxic enzymes known as gingipains. Gingipains have been linked to systemic inflammation and several different health issues.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease begins with mild memory loss. It can potentially lead to losing the ability to carry on conversations and respond to the environment. The ability to carry on daily activities severely affects people with Alzheimer’s disease. Areas of the brain most affected by Alzheimer’s disease are the control of thought, memory, and language.

As of 2020, nearly 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. Statistics show that the number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease doubles every 5 years after age 65. By 2060, Alzheimer’s disease is projected to triple to 14 million people.

What does this have to do with your oral health?

As mentioned above, when the bacteria P. gingivalis are fed, they produce toxins called gingipains. These gingipains have been identified in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients. To read more about the link between Oral Health and Alzheimer’s disease, check out this article in Science Magazine. The study determined that amyloid plaque formation in the brain may be triggered by oral bacteria.

The above study evaluated 6,000 patients at risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Each subject had their gum health routinely examined, antibody levels assessed, and neurological health looked at for 26 years.

Over the 26 years, many patients passed away from natural causes; however, those who died with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (and agreed to it beforehand) when autopsied to examine brain tissue.

Patients who had deteriorated quickly showed traces of gingipains in the brain tissue and spinal fluid. Researchers found that gingipains contributed to the death of nerve cells.

Researchers showed that oral health problems may come before the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Rather than the loss of memory causing oral health disease. Researchers also found that patients with higher antibodies for oral bacteria and those who lost a tooth were 6 times more likely to experience fast cognitive decline over the next 12 months.

How can we help prevent this?

The best way to aid in preventing oral-systemic risks like the link between Alzheimer’s disease and gum disease rests on 3 fundamental pillars.

Practice a thorough oral hygiene routine at home. This includes brushing twice a day and flossing nightly.

Have regular routine dental check-ups and cleanings at the interval recommended by your provider. Dental hygiene visits are more than one-size-fits-all. Some patients need to see their dental hygienist more frequently to help keep the bacteria low in their mouths.

Keep an eye on risk factors: diabetes, dry mouth, grinding teeth, and smoking can increase your risk of gingivitis.

These are simple tasks to aid in the prevention of gum disease! Even the Alzheimer’s Association AGREES!!


Daneshmand, D. N. (2022, August 18). New Evidence on the Link between Gum Disease and Alzheimer’s. MD Periodontics.

Dominy, S. S., Lynch, C., Ermini, F., Benedyk, M., Marczyk, A., Konradi, A., Nguyen, M., Haditsch, U., Raha, D., Griffin, C., Holsinger, L. J., Arastu-Kapur, S., Kaba, S., Lee, A., Ryder, M. I., Potempa, B., Mydel, P., Hellvard, A., Adamowicz, K., … Potempa, J. (2019). Porphyromonas gingivalis in Alzheimer’s disease brains: Evidence for disease causation and treatment with small-molecule inhibitors. Science Advances, 5(1), eaau3333.

Periodontal Disease | Oral Health Conditions | Division of Oral Health | CDC. (2018, December 14).

What is Alzheimer’s Disease? | CDC. (2022, July 8).

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