Gum disease may be linked to Alzheimer's disease, a small new study suggests. The study was published recently in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
Researchers analyzed brain samples from 10 people with Alzheimer's and 10 people without the brain disease and found gum disease-related bacteria in the brain samples from four of the 10 Alzheimer's patients. No such bacteria was found in the brain samples from people without Alzheimer's.
"This clearly shows that there is an association between oral bacteria and Alzheimer's disease, but not causal association", study author Lakahmyya Kesavalu, an associate professor in the College of Dentistry at the University of Florida, said in a university news release. The study is the first to show such a link, the researchers said.
Bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream during chewing, brushing, flossing and dental procedures. The bacteria can travel in the blood to the brain and can potentially lead to brain tissue degeneration that appears similar to Alzheimer's, the researchers said. Each time the bacteria can enter the brain, the researchers note, this could potentially trigger immune system responses, causing the release of excess chemicals that can kill neurons.
The researchers say that this activity could lead to symptoms such as confusion and deteriorating memory. Previous University of Florida research on mice found that gum disease-related bacteria was able to move from the mouth to the brain.
The study adds to previous findings that Alzheimer's is linked to poor oral health and oral hygiene. Research from New York University in 2010 revealed long-term evidence that link gum inflammation and Alzheimer's disease, finding that gum disease could increase the risk of cognitive dysfunction. They add that future research will involve determining whether the Periodontal Pathogen Porphyromones Gingivalis could be used as a marker for a blood test that predicts the development of Alzheimer's disease in patients who are at higher risk. Diagnostic periodontal and peri-implant microbiology analysis services are available at my office in Endicott, NY.