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Study Finds Link Between Gum Disease & Alzheimer’s

North Bend dentist

You don’t need to be a North Bend dentist to know that tooth decay and gum disease can pose serious threats to your long-term oral health. That’s why Dr. Lori Lemire always stresses the need for her patients to take their oral health seriously by brushing and flossing daily.

You also probably know that these daily habits, along with scheduling appointments to see your North Bend dentist, can significantly lower your risk of cavities, gum disease and permanent tooth loss. However, what you may not realize is that practicing quality oral hygiene could also protect your body from other serious health issues.

A growing amount of research has found significant links between gum disease, tooth decay and tooth loss to a growing number of chronic health problems. Studies have found that patients who suffer from these types of oral health problems have a significantly higher risk for developing such health problems as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and cancer. Now another recent study suggests that gum disease could be a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

The Link Between Gum Disease and Dementia

Long-term exposure to the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis – the oral bacteria most closely associated with the development of gum disease – causes inflammation and the degeneration of brain neurons in mice in ways that are incredibly similar to the effects of Alzheimer’s disease in humans, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Researchers suggest these findings support the idea that gum disease may be an initiator of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Other studies have demonstrated a close association between periodontitis and cognitive impairment, but this is the first study to show that exposure to the periodontal bacteria results in the formation of senile plaques that accelerate the development of neuropathology found in Alzheimer’s patients,” wrote researchers.

Researchers noted their surprise to their study’s findings. “We did not expect that the periodontal pathogen would have this much influence on the brain or that the effects would be thoroughly resemble Alzheimer’s disease.”

Significant Results

To study how oral bacteria may impact brain health, researchers developed chronic periodontitis – a severe form of gum disease – in 10 mice. Another 10 mice were placed in a control group. After 22 weeks of continued administration of the oral bacteria to the study group, the researchers studied the brain tissue of the mice and compared their brain health.

The study group show significantly higher buildup of amyloid beta protein analysis and RNA analysis that showed increased expression of genes linked with inflammation and degeneration in the study group of mice. DNA from the gum disease bacteria was also discovered in the brain tissue of the study group mice, and a bacterial protein was observed inside their neurons.

“Our data not only demonstrated the movement of bacteria from the mouth to the brain, but also that chronic infection leads to neural effects similar to Alzheimer’s,” wrote researchers.

The team say these findings have increased significance in part because of the type of mouse used in the study. Most studies examining Alzheimer’s use transgenic mice, which have been genetically altered to more strongly express genes associated with the senile plaque and enable Alzheimer’s development.

The research team says that understanding the risk factors associated with the development of Alzheimer’s remains a critical part of further developing treatment strategies, especially when it relates to sporadic or late-onset of the disease. Over 95 percent of Alzheimer’s cases have unknown causes and mechanisms.

Researchers also went on to stress the importance of practicing quality oral hygiene. “Oral hygiene is an important predictor of disease, including diseases that happen outside the mouth. People can do so much more for their personal health by taking oral health seriously.” A message your North Bend dentist can support.

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