Symptoms of Alzheimer’s in the mouth

Losing your house keys takes on new meaning as you age, but memory loss isn't always the first sign of Alzheimer's.

In an exclusive interview with News UK, a dentist revealed that a patient's oral health can also contribute to the development of degenerative diseases.

“Some of the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are poor oral care,” warns Dr. Smita, chief dentist at Neem Dental Clinic.

“Often – but not always – this will be an older patient who appears to be neglecting oral care.”

Man receiving dental checkup

Signs of neglect include large plaque and tartar deposits, and swollen or bleeding gums with cavities

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In fact, it is common for people with dementia to forget about personal care and hygiene.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists it as one of the top ten early warning signs of Alzheimer's disease.

Dr. Smita warns that neglected signs of poor oral health include excessive plaque and tartar deposits, as well as swollen or bleeding gums accompanied by cavities.

“These are either things we can see as dentists or are obvious from patients complaining of pain when touching or blowing air into the teeth,” she added.

As dentists rightly point out, when it comes to Alzheimer's disease, the patient's overall appearance is key.

“Simply put, these are signs of neglect. As dentists, we do not isolate and identify the bacterium associated with this disease, P. gingivalis. We leave that to scientists.”

What does current research say about this association?

One of the biggest links between periodontal disease and Alzheimer's disease is a specific bacterium found in the mouth called Porphyromonas gingivalis.

Some studies have linked this specific type of bacteria to patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

woman receiving advertisement

Bacteria found in mouth linked to Alzheimer's disease

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Many UK dental practices often no longer rely on amalgam fillings, instead using mercury-free alternatives such as ceramic or composite fillings.

What's more, some European countries, such as France, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, have banned or restricted the use of mercury fillings over the past two decades.

What should people do to best protect themselves from the potential health effects of this connection?

To reduce the chance of P. gingivalis growing in your mouth, prevention is key.

Dr. Smita advises, “Patients should visit their dentist regularly for check-ups and hygiene checks to stay on top of the progress of treatment and avoid worsening of the condition by reducing bacterial counts.”

For people with Alzheimer's who are in the more severe stages of the disease, a guardian or family member should be present during any dental appointment or checkup to learn how to help with oral care maintenance at home and to communicate any dental concerns or concerns they have, she said. May have witnessed firsthand the symptoms suffered by the patient.

“They should also make sure to schedule regular appointments with the dentist for their patients and ask to receive reminders via email or text message so they don’t forget.”

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