According to researchers from the University of Central Lancashire School of Medicine and Dentistry, poor dental health, gum disease, and Alzheimer’s disease may be linked. While this is not the first study to predict a link between dental health and dementia, it is the first study to “pinpoint a specific gum disease bacteria in the brain.” Researchers found Porphyromonas gingivalis in four of their 10 donated brain samples and believe this bacterium may play a role in Alzheimer’s disease development.
“We are working on the theory that when the brain is repeatedly exposed to bacteria and/or debris from our gums, subsequent immune responses may lead to nerve cell death and possibly memory loss,” said Sim Singhrao, PhD, a senior research fellow at the University of Central Lancashire School of Medicine and Dentistry. “The future of the research aims to discover if P. gingivalis can be used as a marker, via a simple blood test, to predict the development of Alzheimer’s disease in at-risk patients.”
However, more research is needed. As St John Crean, dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry, explains, the link between poor dental hygiene and dementia has yet to be proven.
“We don’t know whether the presence of these bacteria in the brain contributes to the disease, and further research will be needed to investigate this,” said Simon Ridley, PhD, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research U.K.
“This small study suggests that we need more research into this important area,” added Alison Cook, director of external affairs at the U.K.’s Alzheimer’s Society.
While there is still no definitive proof of the link between dental health and Alzheimer’s disease, one thing is for sure; good oral health is important.
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