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How Your Mouth Can Reveal Early Alzheimer’s Signs

Gum DiseaseHygiene

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Alzheimer’s disease is a serious and progressive condition that affects the brain, leading to memory loss and other cognitive problems. Traditionally, doctors diagnose it using cognitive tests, brain scans, and other neurological exams. However, new research has found an interesting and potentially groundbreaking early sign: oral health. 

Studies suggest that changes in a person’s mouth, especially in their gums and saliva, might indicate the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. This article explores the link between oral health and Alzheimer’s, looking at the science behind it, what it means for early detection, and possible preventative measures.

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease happens when abnormal proteins build up in the brain, forming amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. This buildup damages brain cells and leads to problems with memory and thinking. The exact reason why these proteins build-up is still unknown, but it is thought to be due to a mix of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Symptoms usually begin with mild memory loss and gradually become more serious, affecting everyday activities and quality of life.

The Oral Health-Alzheimer’s Connection

New evidence shows that oral health might be closely connected to the start and development of Alzheimer’s disease. Doctor Smita, principal dentist here at The Neem Tree Dental Practice, said that oral hygiene could be an early warning sign that someone could be suffering from a form of dementia. Researchers have found several signs in the mouth that could be early warning signs of this brain condition:

Early Oral Health Indicators for Alzheimer’s Disease

Gum Disease (Periodontitis)

Did you know that poor oral health, including gum disease, has been linked to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease? Studies suggest that bacteria from gum disease may enter the brain and trigger inflammation and brain cell damage. Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, is a long-lasting infection of the gums that can cause inflammation and damage to the tissue and bone that support the teeth. It has symptoms such as:

  • Red, Swollen Gums: Gums that are inflamed, sore, and bleed easily.
  • Receding Gums: Gums that pull away from the teeth, making them look longer.
  • Loose Teeth: Teeth that feel loose or start to move out of place.
  • Bad Breath: Constant bad breath, even with good oral hygiene.

Did you know that chronic inflammation caused by poor oral health may contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease? Inflammation is a key factor in many chronic diseases, including those affecting the brain.

Oral Bacteria

Did you know that researchers have found Porphyromonas gingivalis, a bacteria associated with gum disease, in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease? This suggests a possible link between chronic oral infections and neurodegenerative conditions. These bacteria can enter the bloodstream through everyday activities such as eating and brushing teeth if the gums are unhealthy. Indicators include:

  • Increased Levels of Harmful Bacteria: Higher amounts of specific bacteria in the mouth that cause gum disease.
  • Signs of Infection: Swelling, redness, and pus between the gums and teeth.

Changes in Saliva

Saliva can show a person’s overall health, and changes in it might signal early stages of Alzheimer’s. Important changes to watch for include:

  • Reduced Saliva Flow: Less saliva being produced, causing dry mouth.
  • Altered Saliva Proteins: Changes in certain proteins in saliva, like higher levels of lactoferrin, which have been linked to Alzheimer’s.

Differences in Enzymes and MicroRNAs: Specific enzymes and microRNAs in saliva may change, offering early signs of the disease.

Oral Health Habits

Dr Smita said: “Some initial signs of an Alzheimer’s patient will be a mouth that is poorly taken care of. Usually – but not always – this will be an elderly patient who is seemingly neglecting their oral care.”

Changes in daily oral health habits can also be an early sign of cognitive decline:

  • Neglect of Oral Hygiene: Forgetting to brush and floss regularly, leading to poor oral health.
  • Difficulty in Performing Routine Tasks: Struggling with the coordination needed to maintain oral hygiene, such as brushing teeth properly.

Did you know that individuals with Alzheimer’s disease often struggle with maintaining oral health due to cognitive and physical challenges? Caregivers play a crucial role in ensuring these individuals receive proper dental care to prevent infections and discomfort.

Recognizing these early oral health indicators can be crucial for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease. Regular dental check-ups and maintaining good oral hygiene are essential. If you notice any of these signs, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for further evaluation and potential early intervention.

Implications for Early Detection and Prevention

The identification of oral health indicators as early signs of Alzheimer’s holds significant promise for early detection and intervention. Early diagnosis is crucial for managing Alzheimer’s, as it allows for timely therapeutic interventions that can slow the disease’s progression and improve the quality of life for patients and their families. 

Dr Smita warned that an excessive amount of plaque and tartar – as well as swollen or bleeding gums and cavities – are warning signs of neglect and poor dental health. She added: “These will be either visible to us as dentists, or evident from the patient complaining of pain upon touching or blowing air onto teeth.”

Non-Invasive Diagnostic Tools

Testing saliva is a simple way to check for Alzheimer’s without needing to do any invasive procedures. It’s quick, simple, and doesn’t cost much, unlike other tests like brain scans or spinal fluid tests. If we can make good tests using saliva, it could change how we spot Alzheimer’s, making it easier for everyone.

Preventative Oral Health Care

Knowing that there’s a link between oral health and Alzheimer’s highlights how important it is to keep our mouths healthy. Regular brushing, flossing, and seeing the dentist often are all important. By keeping our gums healthy, we might even lower our chances of getting Alzheimer’s or delay it happening.

Did you know

  • Regular dental check-ups can also play a crucial role in preventing oral health issues that could affect the brain. [Source: NIH]
  • Good oral hygiene practices are thought to slow down cognitive decline, making your brain feel younger and more agile. [Source: Cognitive Vitality]
  • Regular dental visits not only keep your teeth in check but also help maintain brain health by preventing oral infections that could lead to Alzheimer’s. [Source: Oral Health Foundation]
  • Porphyromonas gingivalis, a common gum disease culprit, might play a role in Alzheimer’s by sneaking into the brain. [Source: Alzheimer’s Research UK]

The Importance of Regular Dental Check-Ups

Regular trips to the dentist aren’t just about keeping your smile bright and healthy. They can also help spot early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Dentists can learn a lot about your overall health by looking in your mouth. They might notice changes like swollen gums, loose teeth, or unusual wear patterns on your teeth, which could mean Alzheimer’s is brewing. People with Alzheimer’s often struggle with daily tasks, like brushing their teeth, so they’re more likely to get tooth and gum problems. Plus, the germs that cause gum disease might up your Alzheimer’s risk. That’s why it’s so important to get regular dental check-ups and cleanings. 

Dr Smita also noted that a person’s entire appearance is crucial when it comes to diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease. She said: “Simply put, these are the signs of neglect. As dentists, we wouldn’t be isolating and identifying bacteria i.e. Porphyromonas gingivalis which have been linked with this disease. We would leave that to the scientists.” She noted that people can avoid these bacteria from growing by regularly visiting the dentists and having a strict oral hygiene routine. She said: “Patients should regularly see their dentists for check-ups and hygiene visits, to stay on top of treatments and avoid any worsening of the condition by reducing the bacterial count.”

By keeping an eye on your oral health, dentists can catch Alzheimer’s early and start treatment sooner.

Public Health Implications

When we talk about public health implications, we’re looking at how something affects the health of whole communities or populations. In this case, it means considering how understanding the link between oral health and Alzheimer’s could impact everyone’s health, especially as they get older.

Here’s why it’s important:

  1. Promoting Oral Health in Aging Populations: As people get older, they’re more at risk of both oral health problems and Alzheimer’s disease. So, public health initiatives need to focus on teaching older adults about the importance of taking care of their teeth and gums.
  2. Educating People About the Connection: Many people might not realize that the health of their mouth can affect other parts of their body, including their brain. Public health campaigns can help raise awareness about this connection, encouraging individuals to pay more attention to their dental care.
  3. Encouraging Prioritization of Dental Care: By highlighting the link between oral health and Alzheimer’s, public health initiatives can motivate people to prioritize their dental health. This means making regular dental check-ups and good oral hygiene habits a priority, which can ultimately benefit overall health and well-being.

In summary, public health efforts need to emphasize the importance of oral health, especially for older adults, and educate people about how it’s connected to diseases like Alzheimer’s. By doing so, we can help individuals take better care of their oral health and potentially reduce their risk of developing serious health problems later in life.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Oral Health and Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk

Looking after your teeth and gums is important, especially if you want to keep your brain healthy too. There’s a saying that goes, “it’s better to stop problems before they start,” and it’s true when it comes to taking care of your mouth to avoid Alzheimer’s disease.

Here’s what you can do:

  • First off, make sure to brush and floss your teeth every day. Pay extra attention to where your teeth and gums meet, as this is where problems often start.
  • It’s also a good idea to see your dentist regularly for check-ups. They can spot any issues early on before they get worse.
  • Eating a healthy diet full of fruits, veggies, and whole grains helps keep your mouth strong and healthy.
  • You can also think about adding foods and supplements rich in antioxidants, like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and CoQ10. These can help protect your brain too.
  • And if you smoke, try to quit. Smoking is bad for your gums and your brain, increasing the risk of both gum disease and Alzheimer’s.
  • Dr Smita urged people who have family members or friends with Alzheimer’s disease to accompany them on dentist visits to be able to spot any poor oral hygiene signs.

Taking these small steps can make a big difference in keeping your mouth healthy and reducing the chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease. Remember, a healthy mouth means a healthy body – and a healthy brain too.


Finding signs of Alzheimer’s disease in someone’s mouth early on is a big deal. It gives us new ways to understand and fight this tough illness. Looking at oral health, especially gum disease and changes in saliva, could be a helpful way to spot Alzheimer’s early. This shows us how important it is to think about the whole body when it comes to staying healthy, including taking care of our teeth and gums.

More research is needed to fully understand how oral health and Alzheimer’s are linked and to come up with better ways to diagnose and treat the disease. By paying attention to oral health problems, we might not only make our teeth better but also help find and stop Alzheimer’s earlier. This could make life better for lots of people.

In short, keeping an eye on oral health could be a key part of fighting Alzheimer’s disease and making life better for everyone.

As Seen In

Dementia symptoms: Dentist reveals key early warning sign of Alzheimer's seen in patient's mouths - Smita Mehra quoted in The Irish Mirror
Dentist reveals early Alzheimer's sign that is spotted in a person's mouth - Smita Mehra quoted in The Daily Record
Dentist reveals early Alzheimer's sign that is spotted in a person's mouth - Smita Mehra quoted in Yahoo News
How flossing your teeth could lower your risk of Alzheimer’s - Smita Mehra quoted in iNews
'I'm a dentist and this is a key early warning sign of Alzheimer's I see in the mouths of my patients' - Smita Mehra quoted in Global News

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