In a new study published in January 2019, researchers strengthened the association between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease. The bacteria that plays a role in gum/periodontal disease was identified in the brain of deceased Alzheimer’s patients. This finding is very promising in possible prevention of the horrific disease and treatment for Alzheimer’s patients.
Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slow and worsens over time. It is the cause of 60-70% of memory loss disorders. The disease process is associated with plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. In the recent study by Dominy, et al, they discuss how Alzheimer’s “patients exhibit neuroinflammation consistent with infection.” They go on to say that infectious agents are found in the brain of deceased patients and it is possible they are involved in the disease process.
Chronic Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums and bone that supports and hold the teeth in place. The disease process is inflammatory in nature and is caused by bacteria that proliferate in the mouth. Symptoms of the disease include red bleeding gums that can be tender, loose or mobile teeth, bad breath, gum recession, and deep pockets. Other contributing factors to the disease include genetics and smoking. The bacteria associated with the disease process are numerous, but a major key player is Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis for short.)
The study by Dominy, et al found that chronic periodontitis and infection with P. gingivalis have been identified as risk factors for plaque formation in the brain, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. P. gingivalis and toxic substances from the bacterium were identified in the brains of Alzheimer’s deceased patients and correlated with increased plaque formation in the brain. Dominy, et al went on to experiment with P. gingivalis and their toxic substances in mice, and were able to reproduce the neurodegenerative process as in Alzheimer’s patients.
Possible Treatment for the Disease
In their experiment, Dominy, et al, were able to synthesize small molecules to target P. gingivalis and specifically the toxic substances they produced. In effect, these synthesized small molecules were able to decrease the bacterial presence and inflammation in the brain of lab mice.
What this means for the future of Alzheimer’s patients is a treatment option may be in sight that can reduce the neurodegenerative process. Clinical trials in humans will be more revealing on whether or not the disease process can be treated with the same molecules used on mice. However, the latest research and studies show promising results.
These studies also highlight the importance of good oral health. Prevention and treatment of periodontal disease is extremely important for not only oral health, but overall health and well being.
Our information was taken from the study by Dominy, et al. To access the full study by click the link below