The link between Alzheimer’s and gum disease

The link between Alzheimer’s and gum disease

The link between Alzheimer’s and gum disease

Globally, over 50 million people live with Alzheimer’s disease and this figure is expected to triple by 2050.

Alzheimer’s disease explained

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common types of dementia, which progressively destroys your brain cells leading to memory loss and deterioration of other important mental functions. According to Dementia Australia, 1 in 10 people 65 years and over who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

At this stage, despite all efforts, there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s. Nor are there any proven ways to stop or slow down its progress. Generally speaking, scientists believe that Alzheimer’s is due to a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors. 

When it comes to lifestyle factors, over the past 30 years scientists have been exploring the relationship between oral hygiene and Alzheimer’s. During this time there has been increasing evidence to suggest a link between periodontitis (aka gum disease) and Alzheimer’s.

Periodontitis (gum disease) explained

Periodontitis – gum disease – is the chronic inflammation of the soft and hard tissues that hold your teeth in place. There are two different types of gum disease, gingivitis and periodontitis.

Stage 1 – Gingivitis

Gingivitis is a superficial inflammation of the gums. A symptom of gingivitis is when your gums bleed when brushing or flossing.

Stage 2 – Periodontitis

Periodontitis is a more serious inflammation and infection of the gums and the surrounding tissues, including the ligament and bone around your tooth. If left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss (as well as possible links to heart disease and cancer).

It is important to note that not all cases of gingivitis lead to periodontitis. With good oral hygiene habits, the gums and surrounding tissues can heal and the inflammation will resolve. 

Causes, symptoms and consequences of gum disease

Did you know your mouth is a melting pot of over 700 different types of bacteria? When you don’t maintain good oral hygiene, this melting pot creates a colourless plaque that sticks to your teeth. Once plaque hardens, it becomes tartar, which will irritate the surrounding gums and tissue. All of this contributes to the formation of gum disease. Here are some symptoms and consequences to consider:


  • Halitosis, or more commonly known as bad breath
  • Gingivitis, or gums that bleed when brushing or flossing
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Painful chewing
  • Loose or sensitive teeth
  • Tooth loss

Linking gum disease to Alzheimer’s

The Australian Dental Journal published an article supporting the plausibility that there is a link between Alzheimer’s and gum disease.

The journal explored the outcomes of various studies conducted worldwide to determine if there is a connection between Alzheimer’s and gum disease. Over thirty years of findings have indicated that a staggering number of people with fewer teeth had Alzheimer’s disease. One of the common side effects of gum disease (periodontitis) is losing your teeth due to the inflammation that causes bone loss around the teeth

To further support this theory, over the past couple of years scientists have found new evidence linking gum disease to Alzheimer’s with traces of bacteria caused by gum disease present in the brains of people with the disease.

Ways to prevent gum disease

The team at the Sydney Holistic Dental Centre recommend you take proactive steps today to prevent gum disease and protect your general health; this includes:


  • Brushing your teeth twice a day  
  • Flossing or using interdental brushes between your teeth daily to prevent plaque build-up 
  • Scheduling regular check-ups with your dentist or dental hygienist so we can detect early signs of gum disease 
  • Eating a healthy, nutrient-dense diet. Minimise starchy and sugary foods which lead to increased plaque build-up.
  • Quitting smoking. Smoking is a major cause of gum disease and oral cancer.

At this stage, we can’t guarantee that maintaining healthy gums will stop you or a loved one from getting Alzheimer’s disease. However, by taking preventative measures today, you may lower the risk of developing it in the future. 

Ensure a Healthy Future

Either way, when it comes to practising good oral hygiene, the pros outweigh the cons. Taking positive steps to prevent gum disease can have a major impact on your general health. 

For further research and information about Alzheimer’s and gum disease, please visit: