Surprising new research published in Massachusetts’ Tufts University’s journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience finds link between bacteria that affects oral hygiene may also contribute to Alzheimer’s Disease
Recently, researchers at the Tufts School of Dental Medicine found a link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s. According to the CDC, about 47% of adults over 30 and 70% over 65 have gum disease, so the team at Riverwalk Dental felt it was important to share this information with their patients and visitors.
“Your mouth truly is the gateway to your body,” states Jake Jinkun Chen, professor of periodontology at Tufts in Boston. “Chronic inflammation or infection is believed to be a key determinant in the cognitive decline that occurs as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.”
According to Healthline Media and Tara Fourre, research manager for global oral health innovation and microbiology at Johnson & Johnson, the bacteria found in your mouth not only ends up in your digestive system, but also your bloodstream. “Each time you chew, brush, or floss, these germs get pushed into small vessels in your gums.”
This is not, of course, a recommendation to avoid these actions that clean and keep your teeth healthy, it is in fact a recommendation to do it often. By doing so, bad bacteria are inhibited from reproducing in your mouth, and in turn preventing bad bacteria from entering your bloodstream.
How is oral bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease connected?
In the previously mentioned study at Tufts University, Professor Chen conducted experiments on healthy mice in which he placed bad bacteria in the mouths of the animals and measured the amount of bacteria found in their brain six weeks later. Chen’s study showed that the bacteria placed in the mouths of the mice eventually found its way to the animals’ brains.
Here is the critical link: The bacteria found in the mouths of the mice, and the mouths of humans, cause inflammation, and Alzheimer’s is an inflammatory disease. According to Professor Chen, “Chronic inflammation or infection is believed to be a key determinant in the cognitive decline that occurs as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.”
Does this mean if you have gum disease you will, at some point, develop Alzheimer’s disease?
No, not necessarily. These findings are encouraging and very likely a key to getting answers behind Alzheimer’s, but correlation isn’t necessarily causation. According to Science.org, neurobiologist Robert Moir of the Harvard University–affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston expands on this by saying, “I’m fully on board with the idea that this microbe could be a contributing factor [in Alzheimer’s disease]. I’m much less convinced that [it] causes Alzheimer’s disease.”
In agreement with this conclusion, SciTechDaily and Jake Jinkun Chen, professor of periodontology and director of the Division of Oral Biology at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, expands on this concept by saying such inflammatory bacteria “can generate systemic inflammation and even infiltrate nervous system tissues and exacerbate the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.”
How can we protect ourselves from this potential cause, and very likely exacerbating factor for Alzheimer’s disease?
As the doctors at Riverwalk Dental stress so often, every day brushing and flossing is an absolute necessity. If you read our articles regularly, this is obvious. But it is also the deep cleaning that removes the plaque buildup, tartar, as well as deposits of bacterial build up between your teeth is extremely important to oral health and key to avoiding inflammatory bacteria from entering your bloodstream and eventually to your brain.
Other easy habits to establish include drinking water while eating and intentionally rinsing your mouth at the end of each meal. Before particles of sugar and other sticky substances form a firm connection to your teeth, water can rinse those particles away easily.
We as doctors and scientists cannot say for sure if there is a direct cause an affect between oral health and Alzheimer’s disease, but there is no question much of the bad bacteria found in your mouth can and will, if in existing in abundance, enter your bloodstream. And as Professor Chen’s research showed, these bad bacteria eventually flow to your brain. Therefore, there is very strong evidence the inflammation cause by these bacteria in your body intensifies the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
A healthy mouth is a healthy and happy mind!