Could Seeing the Dentist Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s Disease has long been a medical mystery. We already know that plaque buildup in the brain can lead to cell death, ultimately causing the symptoms of senile dementia. But what we did not know is what causes the plaque buildup to occur, or why some people are more prone to it than others.
As of January of this year, a groundbreaking study by researchers at the University of Louisville found that a specific bacteria, porphyromonas gingivalis, may be responsible for Alzheimer’s development and if so, it represents a tremendous breakthrough in Alzheimer’s treatment and prevention.
What is P. Gingivalis and why is it important?
If the word “gingivalis” looks familiar, it is because it’s similar to gingivitis, also known as “inflammation of the gums.” Both are based on the medical term “gingiva,” meaning “gums.” Indeed, porphyromonas gingivalis is one of the most common bacteria associated with severe gum disease.
“When you have gum disease, you’re essentially swallowing harmful bacteria 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” says Dr. George Chen of Esthetic Reflections in Dentistry, an experienced dentist in Folsom who focuses on adult and senior care. “There have already been several studies linking poor oral hygiene to a shorter lifespan and ill health while aging, but we still do not know what the long-term implications may be. This study confirms some of the fears that we’ve had about those that avoid dental care.”
P. gingivalis has already been linked to two conditions that are more common in seniors:
• Rheumatoid Arthritis
• Aspiration Pneumonia
Researchers believe it is possible that Alzheimer’s Disease is also linked to the bacteria toxins.
Though, Dr. Chen emphasizes that we still do not know with certainty that cleaning teeth and addressing dental health issues early will prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. “There is still much more research to do,” he says. But the link appears promising and could change the way we view Alzheimer’s Disease and the importance of consistent and thorough dental care. A larger, follow up study by the Jagiellonian University in Krakow was able to confirm that those with Alzheimer’s Disease did have the presence of this bacteria and studies with mice showed that blocking the effects of this bacteria appeared to reduce Alzheimer’s symptoms.
“Degenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease are complex. It is likely a combination of factors that lead to Alzheimer’s development,” says Dr. Chen. “But this link cannot be ignored. With all we know about gum disease and its long-term health implications, it is critical that seniors continue to receive regular dental care especially with the decrease in manual dexterity and change in dietary habits.”
Submitted by Dr. Chen and Esthetic Reflections in Dentistry. FolsomDentist.com
To learn more about the link between Alzheimer’s and gum disease, visit newatlas.com/study-ties-gum-disease-alzheimers/59187/ and advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/1/eaau3333