The Link Between Alzheimer’s and Gum Disease

By Dr. Jonathan Richter, DDS FAGD

Researchers from the University of Central Lancashire in the UK have determined that bacteria Porphyromonas gingivitis was present in all brain samples taken from patients with Alzheimer’s. Researchers have discovered a link between the bacteria that causes Gum Diseaseand the advanced mental deterioration found in Alzheimer’s disease. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s has been found to be greater in patients with Gum Disease (up to six times higher). Researchers from the University of Central Lancashire in the UK have determined that bacterium Porphyromonas gingivilis was present in all brain samples taken from patients with Alzheimer’s. This particular bacteria is one of three associated with Gum Disease. P. gingivilis is particularly harmful because it is capable of motion which allows it to move about freely.

There are two main ways in which this bacteria can infiltrate brain tissue:

  • The first is by invading the nerves that connect the roots of teeth to the brain (the neuronal pathway).
  • The second is by using the circulatory system (transcient bacteremia).

Patients with bleeding gums can have bacteria from the oral cavity enter the bloodstream each time they brush their teeth or eat food. This has been found to be the most common method of motion in this bacteria. P. gingivilis uses red blood cells to ride the circulatory system, ending its journey in the brain. Chemicals released by the brain’s immune system in response to the bacteria entering the brain then damages neurons in areas of the brain that control memory. This validates the hypothesis that there is a direct link between decreased cognitive ability and Gum Disease.

Oral Bacterial Testing can help to determine the presence of P. gingivalis and other harmful bacteria

Bacterial testing is a tool used in our office to allow a more definitive diagnosis of the bacteria present in your oral cavity. There are over 700 different types of oral bacteria. Many are harmless, but some can cause Gum Disease. Bleeding gums are a sign of ulceration. These ulcers can grant the direct entry of harmful bacteria into the bloodstream. Early detection of harmful bacteria and proper treatment can prevent potential systemic illnesses associated with untreated Gum Disease. Knowing the presence of dangerous and destructive bacteria that lead to Gum Disease will allow us to be able to customize a treatment plan to treat the infection.

How to further prevent Gum Disease?

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day to decrease the chance of plaque build-up
  • Floss daily
  • Visit your dentist for regular check ups (at least twice a year)
  • Avoid smoking
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