Health & Wellness

The Surprising Link Between Alzheimer’s and Gum Disease: Can You Brush Your Way to a Healthier Brain?

Brain fog and memory problems are two very common concerns for many people. After all, it’s quite scary to feel you can’t trust your own mind or memory—especially when completing important tasks. Some even worry that it could be early signs of major cognitive diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. And while I’ve mentioned several things you can do to help boost your brain health (such as supporting your body’s stress response, eating a nutrient-rich diet, and even meditating), there’s something else we haven’t yet discussed: the link between Alzheimer’s and gum disease!

That’s right—as shocking as it may seem, breakthrough science is now showing that it may actually be possible to help prevent major neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, by maintaining optimal oral health! I found this absolutely fascinating and wanted to share this research with you, as this could be a huge gamechanger for those with family histories of this heartbreaking disease. So, let’s take a look at this groundbreaking study and learn more about how the simple act of brushing your teeth may be able to boost your memory and protect your brain health!

 

The Link Between Alzheimer’s and Gum Disease

For years, we’ve all heard about the link between poor oral hygiene or gum disease and heart health. In fact, several years ago, the American Heart Association officially recommended that all Americans brush their teeth for at least two minutes each day to help lower our risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. [1]

This recommendation was based on numerous studies, of which the findings were so strong that scientists continue to research the connection even today. In fact, a 2018 study revealed that the presence of gum disease, which is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the tissues surrounding your teeth, is linked to higher systolic blood pressure.

The researchers found that having gum disease raises your blood pressure by about 2.3 to 3 mm Hg. But there was more. They also discovered that more severe gum disease was associated with unsuccessful antihypertensive treatment. [2]

But now it seems that there’s another severe impact of gum disease—it’s impact on your brain. The truth of the matter is that scientists have found a clear link between Alzheimer’s and gum disease.

A new study has revealed that the very bacteria that causes gingivitis (a common, mild form of gum disease) can move from the mouth to the brain—and it’s present in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s!

 

Alzheimer's and gum disease - Dr. Pingel

 

In 2019, researchers studied 53 people with Alzheimer’s disease and discovered an unquestionable link between Alzheimer’s and gum disease. They found that a toxic enzyme released from the bacterium gingipain (the bacterial that causes gingivitis) was located in the brains of 51 of the patients. That’s a staggering 96 percent of all people studied! [3]

Interestingly, the researchers took it a step further and designed a molecule to inhibit the bacterium. They discovered that when the gingipain was inhibited, it reduced the infection of the bacterium in the brain, reduced brain inflammation, and even rescued neurons in the hippocampus.

Furthermore, inhibiting the gingipain actually blocked the production of the very peptides (amyloid beta) known to be the main components of the plaques found in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s.

The study’s authors noted that while this bacterium won’t singlehandedly cause Alzheimer’s, its presence does increase your risk substantially—and may even cause it to progress more rapidly. They also stated in an interview that regular oral care, such as brushing your teeth and using floss, are two things you can do to help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. [4]

And more researchers are echoing these statements. In fact, the authors of a 2020 scientific review stated, “Oral health care is a key factor for the prevention or delay of conditions associated with oral microbiota dysbiosis, such as Alzheimer’s disease.”

It’s clear that maintaining optimal oral care is a major step in reducing your risk of both Alzheimer’s and gum disease. But if you’re already brushing and flossing at least twice a day, what else can you do? Let’s take a look at some other natural therapies that can help protect both your gums and your brain.

3 Steps to Optimal Oral Care

In addition to brushing and flossing your teeth twice daily, you can also try to incorporate some of the following natural therapies to help prevent both Alzheimer’s and gum disease. The best part? They’re all really simple to do!

1. Try oil pulling.

Not familiar with oil pulling? No worries—it’s quite a simple process. Basically, the idea behind oil pulling is that you take about a tablespoon of oil (I prefer coconut oil) and swish it around your mouth for anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes before spitting it out. (Think of using it like you would use a mouthwash.) Now, I know that might sound like a long time, but it’s absolutely worth it.

Here’s why: Coconut oil actually contains anti-bacterial properties that can help fight the bacteria in your mouth that cause harmful plaque, which leads to gum disease! In fact, a 2016 study on 60 participants revealed that when the participants rinsed their mouths with 2 teaspoons of coconut oil for 10 minutes each day for two weeks, they significantly reduced the amount of harmful bacteria in their mouths. [5] Interestingly, the researchers also stated that because oil pulling has no side effects, it should be considered as a preventive home therapy to help maintain oral hygiene.

2. Take probiotics.

Believe it or not, taking probiotics can actually help increase the amount of good (“friendly”)bacteria in your mouth, thereby helping to fight both Alzheimer’s and gum disease. And numerous studies have shown this benefit for many years.

Research has confirmed that taking probiotics containing L. acidophilus helped to treat periodontal diseases, gingivitis, periodontitis, and even pregnancy-induced gingivitis. [6] Moreover, recent studies have shown that probiotic use can actually decrease gum bleeding. In fact, participants who took probiotics saw a significant decrease in plaque formation in as little as two weeks! [7]

If you want to know more about probiotics, click here for information on how you can choose a probiotic that’s right for you.

3. Use oil of oregano.

Finally, another way you can help fight both Alzheimer’s and gum disease is by using oil of oregano. This supplement is available in most health food and vitamin stores, and it’s a fantastic natural therapy to ward off harmful bacteria. (And, as a bonus, it’s a great immune booster as well!)

If you aren’t interested in taking the supplements, you could actually combine a drop of oregano oil with our coconut oil and then proceed with oil pulling. For more information on oil of oregano, including its many benefits, click here.

 

Key Takeaways

  • breakthrough science is now showing that it may actually be possible to help prevent major neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, by maintaining optimal oral health.
  • Scientists have found a clear link between Alzheimer’s and gum disease, discovering that the bacteria that causes gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain. Additionally, they found that it’s present in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.
  • In addition to flossing and brushing twice daily, you can help fight Alzheimer’s and gum disease by also trying oil pulling, taking probiotics, and using oil of oregano.

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