Alzheimer’s Disease, Oral Health And Fear Of The Dentist

November is Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. As a dentist and oral surgeon who studies the link between oral health and many of the most feared diseases, I now turn my attention to the link between oral health and Alzheimer’s Disease.


Anything that penetrates the blood brain barrier has an effect on the brain. Alcohol and drugs definitely have an effect on the brain for that very reason. They both penetrate the blood brain barrier. Alzheimer’s Disease is an inflammation in the brain and current research is suggesting a link between infections of the mouth and the brain that cause the disease.


Mouth To Brain

Scientists have been searching for the potential root causes and many are now zeroing in on infections that originate in the oral cavity. According to a report I recently read, “Researchers have well established that many bacteria in the mouth, particularly in people with gum disease, find their way into the host bloodstream; if they pass the blood brain barrier – and any number of them could be implicated in the Alzheimer’s enigma.”,2


As the report also shows, “There is even some evidence that oral Candida and herpes virus could possibly cause the inflammation in the brain that is seen in Alzheimer’s patients. Candida is a typically harmless fungus that is found in the mouths of half the world’s human population. However it can become treacherous and lead to infection if it enters the bloodstream. And herpes simplex virus is present in more than 70 percent of the population after 50 years of age. It persists latently in the peripheral nervous system and is periodically reactivated in the brain.”,2


And Now For People Who Are Afraid Of Going To The Dentist

When one considers the effect oral health has on the overall health of the body, I wonder what’s scarier, getting Alzheimer’s Disease or going to the dentist regularly? I wrote about fear of the dentist last month too. I feel this topic deserves a lot of attention because fear of going to a dentist affects a huge segment of people worldwide. In fact, according to a recent survey taken by 18,000 people worldwide, 61% said they suffer from dental fear. Almost 4% of the respondents said they have never been to a dentist!


Dental techniques are continually being improved and dentists are becoming more skillful at helping patients relax. But, for so many reasons there are people who just can’t seem to overcome the fears, which are varied. For instance the largest number of people are afraid of the pain. Others don’t like the smell of chemicals or the sound of the drill. Others are afraid of being stuck in the dental chair, which means they are afraid of not being in control.


It isn’t just Alzheimer’s Disease that is being linked to oral health. As I’ve talked about before, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers and strokes are being found to be more prominent in people with gum disease and certain types of bacteria in the oral cavity. And, a recent study by the Yale School of Medicine found an increased rate of pneumonia among those with poor dental health.


The mouth is the portal to the entire body. It is how we greet the world with a smile. May you overcome any fear you may have and may you treat your oral health as the most important aspect of overall health.