Can Your Oral Health Affect Your Memory? The Connection to Alzheimer’s 

You know that taking care of your gums is important to protect the integrity of your teeth. It’s even becoming more widely known that the health of your gums plays a role in your cardiovascular health, however, did you know that your oral health is also linked to your memory? In this article we’ll discuss how the bacteria found in your mouth could be linked to Alzheimer’s. 

The Connection Between Oral Health and Memory

As we age, memory loss becomes more common and can be caused by a variety of factors. While memory problems may come from the brain itself, memory issues could also stem from oral health issues that lead to inflammation in your mouth. In fact, memory issues related to oral health problems are one of the top five reasons seniors visit a doctor. Researchers have discovered that up to 85% of older adults who visited dentists within three months of memory testing had gum disease and not Alzheimer’s.

Dentistry Today explains that periodontal disease, which affects 70% of adults age 65 and older, is characterized by chronic and systemic inflammation with pockets between the teeth and gums enlarging and harboring bacteria, increasing the risk of developing memory issues.

Oral Bacteria

The oral microbiome is the microbial community that lives in your mouth. It’s a diverse mix of both good and bad bacteria, however research suggests that memory loss could be linked to an overgrowth of specific species within this ecosystem. In fact, studies have found distinct differences between people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and those without memory loss in relation to the oral microbiome.

The bacteria found in samples collected from memory loss patients was different from that of people without memory loss. Those suffering memory loss had an increase in the levels of specific bacteria, including Porphyromonas gingivalis (Pg) and several types of oral streptococci. Pg is a bacterium that lives in your gum tissue and can travel to other parts of your body like brain tissues via infected lymph nodes or by direct contact with teeth.  This bacteria, WebMD explains, may play a role in changes in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease, contributing to symptoms including confusion and failing memory.

The Role of Oral Streptococci and Pg in Alzheimer’s Disease

No one is entirely sure how this connection between memory loss and oral health works, however research has shown that strep bacteria could be a potential trigger for the immune system to begin attacking healthy tissue (such as your brain) by mistake. It also seems as though the presence of these bacteria may be related to a decrease in memory and other cognitive functions.

While we don’t know for sure how oral strep is connected with memory loss, it seems as though there could be multiple factors at play, for example:

  • The inflammatory response caused by Pg and oral streptococci may be damaging memory and brain tissue
  • Oral streptococci and Pg produce a toxin called gingipain, which can break down the blood/brain barrier. This allows bacteria to move from your mouth into your bloodstream and attach to other body tissues like those in the brain, causing further damage
  • The presence of oral strep and Pg may lead to memory loss by increasing the production of amyloid-beta (Aβ) plaques. These are abnormal clusters of proteins in your brain that can form deposits, which damage memory centers

How Can You Prevent Oral Health From Affecting Your Memory?

To protect yourself from memory issues related to oral health you should:

  • Brush and floss your teeth twice daily to prevent the buildup of oral bacteria, including Pg. It is also important to floss your teeth once a day to remove bacteria buildup from between the teeth.
  • See a dentist regularly for professional cleanings which can remove plaque and tartar that would otherwise travel into memory tissues.
  • Avoid smoking or using other tobacco products, which are major risk factors for memory loss. Smoking can damage memory through increased inflammation in your body.

Can Oral Health Be The Key To Reducing Your Risk for Memory Loss?

While research hasn’t provided a definitive answer, oral health is definitely something you should consider in your memory loss prevention plan.

Oral health is not the only thing that affects memory function, however, protecting yourself from oral bacteria may help to decrease memory issues related to memory loss.

Protect Your Memory with Young Family Dental

Young Family Dental wants to help you protect your memory by prioritizing your oral health. To schedule a cleaning and dental examination, contact the Young Family Dental location nearest you today.