New Jersey Dentist Uses New Alzheimer’s Research to Stress the Importance of Oral Hygiene

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Dr. John D. Beckwith adds brain disease prevention to the growing list of reasons why patients should take steps to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Hillsborough, NJ – Though Dr. John Beckwith, a cosmetic dentist, offers procedures to benefit both cosmetic and functional issues – such as porcelain veneers and dental implants – he believes that aesthetic dental concerns can most effectively be addressed once the patient has a healthy mouth as a foundation. In fact, he says routine dental care can often be the first step in creating and maintaining not only a healthy smile, but also a healthy body.

According to an article recently published in MNT® Medical News Today – in 2010, researchers at New York University found a correlation between gum disease and the risk of cognitive dysfunction. These findings reinforce prior evidence that Alzheimer’s disease can be linked with gum inflammation. Another study out of the University of New Mexico shows connections between Alzheimer’s and certain bacteria and viruses. For example, Herpes simplex virus type 1 and Alzheimer’s are often found to coexist, leading to theories that cold sores may be directly connected to cognitive decline. Dr. Beckwith carries this knowledge into his practice saying, “Today’s standard in dental screening and examination should try to identify the oral conditions that can be identified as symptoms or risk factors for systemic disease.”

These previous studies have focused new research projects on discerning correlations that are found among Alzheimer’s disease and other ailments. Researchers from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) have been investigating the possible link between the degenerative brain disease and oral hygiene, hypothesizing that bacteria in the mouth that infiltrates the blood stream may have severe effects on the brain.

The UCLan researchers published their findings in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, saying that brain samples from patients with dementia also contained a bacterium called Porphyromonas gingivalis—a bacterium usually associated with gum disease. The study goes on to suggest that porphyromonas gingivalis is more likely to enter the bloodstream and the brain after invasive dentistry treatment. The danger is that the continued presence of bacterium can activate the body’s natural immune system; releasing chemicals to kill the bacterium that also kill the neurons of the brain in the process.

Dr. Beckwith responds to the research saying, “I am not too surprised by the results of this new study. Many diseases today are being linked to inflammatory reactions that often originate from oral conditions. Today we know that certain patients, because of oral disease, already suffer or are at risk to develop conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular and pulmonary disease, and have a higher prevalence of low birth weight newborns. Now we are identifying Alzheimer’s as becoming a potential risk. It is becoming more important than ever to implement preventive dentistry as part of preventive medicine.”

The MNT® article includes a quote by Professor St John Crean of the UCLan study, stating that while “it remains to be proven whether poor dental hygiene can lead to dementia in healthy people…It is also likely that these bacteria could make the existing disease condition worse.”

If this causal effect is proven, the implications for the public are great. Dr. Beckwith, who always stresses the importance of the routine maintenance of oral health, says that now his New Jersey dentistry patients have yet another reason to remain vigilant about their at-home dental care.

About John D. Beckwith, DMD, FAGD, aFFID

A graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University, Dr. John Beckwith earned his dental degree at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine and has been in private dental practice since 1987. Dr. Beckwith is a member of the American Dental Association, American Orthodontic Society and the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He has been recognized as a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry and associate Fellow of the American Academy of Implant Dentistry. Dr. Beckwith is available for interview upon request.

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