Poor Dental Health May Increase Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

Researchers from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in the UK have established a link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. A study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, revealed evidence of bacteria commonly associated with chronic periodontal disease present in the tissue samples of brains from patients suffering from dementia.

Dr. Sim K. Singhrao, Senior Research Fellow at UCLan said, “We are working on the theory that when the brain is repeatedly exposed to bacteria and/or their debris from our gums, subsequent immune responses may lead to nerve cell death and possibly memory loss. Thus, continued visits to dental hygiene professionals throughout one’s life may be more important than currently envisaged with inferences for health outside of the mouth only.”

The researchers used Brains for Demential Research, a brain donation organization supported by the Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Alzheimer’s Society, to compare brain samples of ten patients with dementia to ten patients without dementia. The goal of future research is to determine if the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis) can be used as a marker to predict the development of Alzheimer disease in at-risk patients.

Bacteria enter the bloodstream through common daily activities such as chewing, tooth brushing and flossing. From there, bacteria can also enter the brain. Researchers have developed a theory that the bacteria can trigger an immune system response in patients who are at risk for Alzheimer disease and release chemicals that kill neurons.

It is possible with future research that a simple blood test could help identify the presence of the P. gingivalis bacteria and identify the potential development of Alzheimer disease in susceptible adults.

Philadelphia dentist Dr. Pamela Doray said, “This is very exciting research. Good oral health is critical for good overall health. We already know that gum disease has been linked to other health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Preventive care is the best way to maintain health and visiting the dentist regularly should be a part of a healthy lifestyle.”

To stay healthy, Dr. Doray recommends brushing teeth at least twice a day, flossing once a day and visiting the dentist at least twice a year, or more frequently if you have a history of periodontal disease.