From the time we’re really young (and already hate it) our parents probably take us to the dentist on a regular basis. There are lots of reasons for this, but the most important one didn’t even exist until 2018.
Healthy teeth are clearly an asset. If you brush and floss regularly you end up with nice white pearly teeth, and a nice smile is the second (or third) thing most people notice about you. Failure to properly take care of your teeth can lead to expensive treatments for cavities or even more expensive and painful treatment for gum disease.
It’s also nice to be able to eat things like corn on the cob and meat and that takes working teeth.
But it turns out that good oral care has an even more important benefit: it may help fight Alzheimer’s!
A study in Chicago that was released in 2018 introduced Porphyromonas gingivalis (commonly referred to as gingivitis in scary toothpaste commercials) into test subjects (aka mice). Follow-up examinations revealed that the bacteria caused the creation of clumps of amyloid beta, a protein that is present in Alzheimer’s patients. Based on studies at Havard, that protein appears to be created in the brain as a defense against microbial infections. The onset of “neurodegeneration” in the infected mice was also found, indicating some deterioration of mental abilities.
Additional studies by Cortexyme reported in January 2019 in Science Advances Magazine supplied additional support for a link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s. These studies examined the brains of fifty people who died with Alzheimer’s symptoms and fifty people who had not yet shown symptoms and found significantly higher levels of gum disease-related toxins in those who were ill. The company has also begun testing a medicine that targets the removal of the toxins on humans and has found that the drug appears to improve cognitive abilities.
While this doesn’t yet prove a cause-and-effect relationship between gum disease and Alzheimer’s or verify a long term treatment it gives us hope in that direction. And makes it clearly important that the elderly especially should pay more attention to their teeth and gums! Many Medicare Advantage plans now include coverage for regular teeth cleanings, and those who are covered have a real incentive to see a dentist regularly. Even if you don’t have coverage, you owe it to future you to take care of yourself.
Declan Patrick MacManus was a British musician who started writing and performing as D. P. Costello. When he signed a contract with a record company his manager (Jake Riviera) convinced him to change his name to Elvis Costello. Using Presley’s first name seems to have helped his career along, and he produced a series of successful albums in the seventies and eighties. His most successful single in the US was Veronica, a song he co-wrote with Paul McCartney. Be sure to check out the lyrics; the song is one of the most powerful statements about dementia ever recorded.