We know that the relationship between oral health and overall health is complex and close. This is one of the essential principles of holistic dentistry, and it’s regularly reaffirmed by science.
For example, gum disease has been linked with Alzheimer’s disease for a long time. We know that people with fewer teeth and those with gum disease are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
However, we haven’t really seen the causal link between the two conditions. Until now. A new study gives us evidence that gum disease can actually lead to damaged brain tissue similar to Alzheimer’s disease. This shows that gum disease may be perhaps the most important cause of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Healthy Wild Mice Exposed to Oral Bacteria
To explore the link between oral bacteria and brain damage, researchers took 10 wild mice and exposed them to oral bacteria. Specifically, they exposed them to Porphyromonas gingivalis, very common oral bacteria that cause gum disease, three times a week for 22 weeks. The control group, also composed of 10 mice, were exposed to just the carrier matrix on the same schedule.
Researcher say that they wanted to use wild mice because this created more naturalistic conditions than using mice that had been genetically modified to be more susceptible to human diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Brain Damage Similar to Alzheimer’s Disease
At the end of the study period, they examined the brains of the mice in both groups. They found that mice exposed to P. gingivalis had bacteria in their brains, as well as toxins produced by the bacteria. And the exposed mice also had serious neurodegeneration in their brain, including the hippocampus, a region vulnerable to damage in early stage Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers also found high levels of amyloid beta–which forms brain plaques in Alzheimer’s disease–in the brains of exposed mice but not control mice.
As a result, researchers were able to point to gum disease not just as something associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but also a potential cause of this and related forms of dementia.
Treat Gum Disease to Protect Your Health
Adding Alzheimer’s disease to the list of conditions that can be caused by gum disease adds even more incentive to treating gum disease early.
Currently, there is no way to treat Alzheimer’s disease, and even the best treatments are only moderately effective at slowing the disease’s progression.
But gum disease has both effective prevention and treatment options. With good oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing, healthy diet, and regular professional cleanings, you can prevent the progression of gum disease. And gum disease treatment can reduce or eliminate the condition once it starts. This gives us a powerful new way to potentially control Alzheimer’s disease.
To learn more about how dental care can protect your overall health, including brain health, please call (585) 244-3337 today for an appointment with a holistic dentist at Contemporary Dentistry in Rochester, NY.