The links between poor Oral Health and Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s affects around 1 in 6 people over 80 in the UK today. Currently, around 850,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s in the UK, with projections showing that by 2025 over 1 million people will be suffering from the disease. As Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease, and much of the inner workings of our brains are still unclear to scientists, the exact causes of the disease are still mostly a mystery- leading to hundreds of potential factors that may or may not increase the risk of contracting Alzheimer’s. Research into Alzheimer’s disease is so important, which is why it is essential to bring to light and celebrate breakthroughs in this field- with the most recent pertaining to new links found between gum disease and the development of Alzheimer’s.
A recent study, published in the journal Science Advances, found that bacteria called Porphyromonas gingivalis was present in the brains of people suffering from Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, this form of bacteria is mainly associated with chronic gum disease, and found in the mouths of those with very poor oral health. Further tests conducted on mice confirmed that Porphyromonas gingivalis actually travels from the mouth into the brain if left to spread where it secretes a toxic protein called Gingipain- this protein destroys brain neurons and, you guessed it, speeds up the development of Alzheimer’s. It’s not all doom and gloom however, as these scientists then went on to test drugs in the mice aimed at blocking the toxic proteins which succeeded- effectively halting degeneration in the brain!
This new research goes hand in hand with previous studies linking oral health and Alzheimer’s, including a 2018 Taiwanese study that found that people with a 10-year or more history of Chronic Periodontitis (chronic inflammation of the oral cavity) are 70% more likely to develop the disease. This may not be due to the specific bacterium of Porphyromonas gingivalis, yet it is clear that harmful bacteria from the mouth can access the brain very easily by spreading through cranial nerves passing through the head and jaw.
Scary stuff, right? Don’t worry though, as it’s so easy to maintain a clean and healthy mouth if you stick to a regular brushing schedule and visit your Dentist for check-ups. If you want to learn more about Alzheimer’s, visit the Alzheimer’s Society UK page at https://www.alzheimers.org.uk , and if you are experiencing any issues with your mouth and teeth, call us at Strand on the Green Dental Practice on 020 8995 0298 to book an appointment.