Wellness

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Two-word answers

Q:

 Is there a link between gum disease and Alzheimer's?

A:

It’s possible.

A study published this year in the journal Science Advances further supports the possible association between periodontal (gum) disease and Alzheimer’s disease. The disorder attacks the brain’s cells over time, causing loss of memory, language and thinking skills. It’s one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States.

Researchers comparing the brain tissue of people with and without Alzheimer’s disease found higher levels of one of the bacteria that causes gum disease, called Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis), and the toxic enzyme it secretes, called gingipains, in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.

But some researchers are more cautious about the findings and note that they are not conclusive. They say that, while the study has some notable findings, more research is needed to determine the cause and effect relationship.

Up to 80% of American adults have some form of gum disease, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Gum disease is the result of bacteria causing a sticky buildup of plaque on teeth and infecting tissues surrounding them when not cleaned properly.

The latest study reaffirms the important role gum health plays in overall wellness. Gum disease can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle — brushing twice a day, flossing daily, not smoking or using tobacco products, avoiding sugary snacks and drinks, and visiting the dentist regularly.

Managing gum disease is especially important in older adults or those who have an increased risk of dementia.

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