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Jane’s Blog Gum Disease Increases the Risk of Heart Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Posted by Jane Jansen on

According to Cleveland Clinic some studies show that the type of bacteria that causes gum disease can move into the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body. Studies have shown this elevates C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation, in blood vessels that leads to an increase of heart disease. Studies have indicated people with gum disease have two to three times the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular event.

80% of Americans have some form of gum disease (periodontal disease).

Bacteria forms on the teeth and grows down into the space between the teeth and gums.  These pockets become breeding grounds for bacteria and cause inflammation, tenderness, bleeding, and infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that nearly half of American adults age 30 and older and 70 percent of those 65 and older have some stage of gum disease. 

Peri-implant diseases are also inflammatory conditions affecting the soft and hard gum tissues around dental implants. Similar to a natural tooth, bacteria can build up on the base of the implant, below the gum line.

Dr. Hatice Hasturk, a periodontist of the Harvard-affiliated Forsyth Institute has stated, "Periodontal disease increases the body's burden of inflammation. Acute inflammation — which involves an outpouring of immune cells that attack irritants and microbial invaders — fosters healing over the short term. But long-term (chronic) inflammation is a key contributor to many health problems, especially atherosclerosis.”

Dr. Marietta Ambrose, MD., MPH, FACC, an assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine says, “People with heart valve disease are particularly at risk when gum disease is present. The bacteria that live in your mouth when you have gum disease can cross into your bloodstream, enter the heart, and directly infect the vulnerable heart valves. That’s especially concerning in our patients who have artificial heart valves.” 

A recent analysis led by NIA scientists suggests that bacteria that cause gum disease are also associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, especially vascular dementia. The results were reported in the 2020 Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Their research suggests bacteria and the inflammatory molecules they make can travel from infections in the mouth through the bloodstream to the brain. Previous lab studies have suggested that this is one mechanism influencing the cascade of events that leads to dementia, but this is the first large study with people to confirm this relationship.

The study showed Porphyromonas gingivalis bacteria is the most common culprit of gum disease and suggests that plaques of beta-amyloid protein, a major hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, may be produced as a response to this bacterial infection. The analysis revealed that older adults with signs of gum disease and mouth infections at baseline were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s during the study period. Among those 65 years or older, both Alzheimer’s diagnoses and deaths were associated with antibodies against the oral bacterium P. gingivalis, which can cluster with other bacteria such as Campylobacter rectus and Prevotella melaninogenica to further increase those risks.

A long-term follow-up for this study is needed because the findings suggest that oral infection preceded the diagnosis of dementia. After all, having dementia makes it more likely that an individual will not be able to brush and floss effectively, which increases the likelihood of such infections and gum disease. In any case, it is important to keep in mind that population studies can show association but not causality. The authors emphasize that clinical trials are needed to test whether treating infections with P. gingivalis can reduce the development or symptoms of dementia.

New research from NYU College of Dentistry and Weill Cornell Medicine also showed increases in “bad” bacteria and decreases in “good” bacteria in gums is associated with beta-amyloid protein in their cerebrospinal fluid.

The study was published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment and Disease Monitoring. Mony J. de Leon, EdD, professor of neuroscience in radiology and director of the Brain Health Imaging Institute at Weill Cornell Medicine, the study’s senior author said, “The present study adds support to the understanding that proinflammatory diseases disrupt the clearance of amyloid from the brain, as retention of amyloid in the brain can be estimated from CSF levels. Amyloid changes are often observed decades before tau pathology or the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are detected.”

Practicing good oral hygiene is the most important action that a person can take to prevent and treat gum disease. Brushing your teeth and massaging your gums properly every day is especially important. So is sanitizing your toothbrush. To disinfect your toothbrush, rinse the bristles thoroughly in water after brushing. Then place into a cup of antiseptic mouthwash or ¼ tsp of 3% hydrogen peroxide and enough water to cover the bristles. Soak for 15 minutes only so you do not damage the bristles. Rinse thoroughly with water.

Spry Xylitol Dental Products by Xlear Inc. significantly decreases gum disease.

Xylitol is classified as a bacteriostatic, which means it stops bacteria from re-producing and lowers the population of bacteria that may be present on teeth and below the gum line.

Xylitol is a naturally occurring, sweet-tasting, sugar alcohol that is found in different fruits and vegetables. Xylitol is also present in small amounts in oats, birch tree sap, and corn husks or cobs. Unlike the standard sugar we’re all used to, however, Xylitol does not produce acid that damages teeth or many of the other negative side-effects of eating too many sugary foods.

Studies show as Xylitol limits the production of oral bacteria, patients with gum disease experience reduced soft tissue irritation and bleeding. Xylitol also lowers acid levels on your teeth, which prevents the development of tooth decay, and has been shown to re-mineralize dental enamel, making teeth stronger over time.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center reports that xylitol can reduce unhealthy oral bacteria that are responsible for causing cavities and gum disease. Due to xylitol’s unique structure, it doesn't break down the way that regular sugar does, and it helps keep a neutral pH balance in your mouth. Regular consumption of xylitol will prevent harmful bacteria from sticking to your teeth and gums, thus decreasing your chance of developing, or worsening, gum disease.

Many Dental Insurance companies including Delta Dental promote xylitol dental products to reduce gum disease and tooth decay.

To effectively fight acid-producing bacteria you need 2 grams of Xylitol three times a day (for a total of 6 grams). In just four weeks of Xylitol use, decay-causing bacteria can be reduced by more than a third. Using Spry toothpaste, mouth wash, mints and/or the most popular Spry Xylitol gum makes it easy. Two pieces of gum contain two grams of Xylitol. For more information go to

While xylitol is perfectly safe for human consumption, DO NOT give it to dogs or other pets as it could be deadly.

When your gums are healthy, you reduce your risk of developing bad breath, dental decay and a whole range of harmful inflammatory diseases including Heart Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Let’s help our community to be healthier! Please share this information with friends, co-workers, and family.

Jane Jansen Holistic Practitioner  Tree of Life Wellness Center Seekonk MA 508-336-4242

Host Holistic Healthline Radio

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