The worlds of dentistry and Alzheimer’s research collide as a new breakthrough suggests that good oral health may reduce a person’s risk of developing this form of dementia. A study published in January 2019 in the journal Science Advances explains how a type of bacteria associated with gum disease has been found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s.
A team of University of Louisville scientists found the bacteria P. gingivalis in the brains of deceased Alzheimer’s patients. To put the correlation between the bacteria and the disease to the test — specifically, to learn if P. gingivalis enters the brain after a mouth infection — the team conducted a six-week experiment. Their results revealed infections in the mouths of otherwise healthy mice and the presence of P. gingivalis in their brains. Furthermore, the scientists discovered dying nerves and high levels of beta-amyloid protein, which is a characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.
The team concluded, “The findings of this study offer evidence that Porphyromonas gingivalis and gingipains in the brain play a central role in the pathogenesis [development] of AD [Alzheimer’s disease], providing a new conceptual framework for disease treatment.”
Of course they did add that “more research needs to be done before P. gingivalis is explicitly implicated in the causation or morbidity of Alzheimer’s disease.”
This is still excellent news as this breakthrough brings us closer to establishing preventative measures against Alzheimer’s. And it offers a simple piece of advice: take care of your teeth. Dentists have been warning us all our lives to pay close attention to our oral health, though sadly, almost three-quarters (74%) of Americans have some type of periodontal disease. It’s not just about a pearly white smile — a healthy mouth guards against additional health problems and infections.
Fortunately, when it comes to the debilitating condition of Alzheimer’s, this study gives us hope. The University of Louisville team has developed a new drug they hope could build the foundation of a treatment. They intend to run a clinical trial with patients experiencing mild to moderate Alzheimer’s sometime this year.