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New Study Identifies Chronic Gum Disease as Potential Risk Factor for Alzheimer’s

Research published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Alzheimer's Research and Therapy has determined that people suffering from gum disease for 10 years or longer are 70 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. The study was conducted in Taiwan by researchers from Chung Shan Medical University and the National Defense Medical Center.

Researchers conducted a retrospective cohort study and analyzed more than 25,000 patients 50 years of age or older to determine if chronic gum disease, or periodontitis, could lead to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The study discovered that those who had suffered from gum disease for 10 years or longer had a 70 percent greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. However, it was not determined if the gum disease was a result of the often poor dental hygiene habits of someone in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or if the gum disease came before the early stages.

Unique Oral Health Challenges for Those With Dementia and Alzheimer’s

The No. 1 cause of gum disease is poor oral hygiene, according to Dr. Bryan Schwartz, DDS, of Whole Health Biomimetic and Biological Dentistry.

"This is especially relevant for patients at risk for or already suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s," he said. "Forgetting how to care for teeth is a very common symptom of these diseases."

Another cause of gum disease is dry mouth, a common side effect of many medications.

"Saliva is incredibly important when it comes to protecting the teeth and mouth," said Schwartz. "Without saliva to help rinse away food particles and bacteria, the risk of tooth decay and gum disease increase drastically."

The Family Caregiver Alliance, an organization that helps caregivers provide long-term home care for loved ones, suggests some tips for helping someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease care for their teeth.

Model or Guide Them Through the Steps 

Due to the memory complications that come with these diseases, forgetting how to use the tools associated with oral hygiene routines is common. In addition, patients may forget the steps to brushing teeth or flossing. To help with these you can model the steps so they can watch or you can place your hand gently over theirs and guide them through the process.

Find the Right Time 

"Of course brushing just before bed and right upon waking is the optimal time for clean teeth, however, it’s OK to be flexible as the biggest concern is making sure teeth are cleaned at all," said Schwartz.

Try to find a time when the patient is calm and cooperative and don’t be afraid to be creative with location such as using a bowl of water and bringing supplies to a place where they sit often and feel comfortable.

Try Different Tools 

Sometimes, using a small toothbrush can be difficult for patients. Some helpful tips from the Family Caregiver Alliance include sticking the handle of the toothbrush through a tennis ball to make it easier to hold onto. When it comes to flossing, there are many tools available to help make the process easier and the floss easier to hold.

 

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Tuesday, 20 February 2018

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