Alzheimer’s Disease And Oral Bacteria – New Findings

Posted on Jan 07, 2015 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

If you think that the bacterial build-up in your mouth from poor oral hygiene is just related to bad breath and cavities, be prepared for a jolt. According to researchers, the bacteria found in gum disease has been linked to brain tissue degeneration. Research has already found links between oral bacteria and heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, impotency, preterm babies and more. The correlation between oral bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease and dementia adds to a long, devastating list.

In one study, brain tissue samples from patients with and without dementia showed that a particular component of oral bacteria was found in 4 out of 10 Alzheimer’s disease tissue samples. This same bacteria component was not found in any of the brain tissue samples of people who did not have Alzheimer’s disease. This clearly showed an association between oral bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease, and not just a causal association.

Oral bacteria build-up can destroy healthy gum tissues, weakening them. The bacteria is able to enter the bloodstream through tears in diseased gum tissues, which can travel through the bloodstream to the brain. This can lead to degeneration in brain tissue that appears similar to Alzheimer’s disease.

This extensive research was conducted after a previous study on mice infected with specific periodontal bacteria. Researchers in this study found the bacteria traveled to the brain in mice, which prompted further studies involving humans.

An early-stage level of periodontal disease, gingivitis, exists in nearly 97% of the population. Gingivitis is one of the most common diseases found in humans and is more common than the common cold. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, nearly 64% of adults ages 65 and over have moderate or severe levels of periodontal disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association states that Alzheimer’s disease is the nation’s sixth leading cause of death. It affects over 5 million Americans, with one in three older adults dying from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. The World Health Organization cites that about 36 million people globally are affected by Alzheimer’s disease. This figure is predicted to increase to 115 million by the year 2050.

Researchers think these bacterial components found in the brain may trigger a response by the immune system along with pathological changes. It is this chain reaction that the study shows can lead to Alzheimer’s. While the findings do not prove that oral bacteria causes Alzheimer’s disease, the links shown through research thus far are sound reasons to maintain good oral health.

Periodontal disease begins silently. You may not notice it in its early stages. However, gum disease is well underway by the time you see blood when brushing your teeth, have frequent bad breath, experience sore and swollen gums, and have gums that turn red rather than a healthy pink color.

Preventing gum disease requires minimal time and investment. Twice daily brushing (at least two minutes each time) and flossing will help keep oral bacteria to a minimum between your six-month oral hygiene exams and cleanings. If you are a smoker or take medications that are drying to oral tissues, consider hygiene visits every four months.

Alzheimer’s disease is a terrible way to spend those last years of life, and just as bad when we watch (or care for) people we love as they suffer through this nightmare. Keep your mouth as bacteria free as possible and stay involved with your general dentist to lessen your risk.

Gum disease will only worsen without treatment. In addition to creating susceptibility for serious diseases, it is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. If you are having symptoms of gum disease (as mentioned above), call our office at (828) 274-9440 for an examination.

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