The mouth hosts one of the body’s most significant clusters of bacteria, with about 700 species of bacteria residing in the mouth. This includes the species of bacteria that cause periodontal disease –or, more simply, gum disease. More than this, a recent analysis by scientists has indicated that the bacteria which causes gum disease can also cause Alzheimer’s disease.
Generally speaking, gum disease is the result of an infection that has plagued the oral tissues which hold the teeth in place. This infection can lead to several adverse consequences, including loose teeth, bleeding gums, and tooth loss, among a host of other things. The bacteria and inflammatory molecules can also make their way up to the brain. Therefore, expert researchers and scientists have highlighted a need to ensure proper and adequate periodontal health, including retaining one’s natural teeth. They further emphasized that this proper and sufficient care is of utmost importance, primarily as one seeks to prevent the risk of contracting cognitive diseases such as dementia.
How the Study Was Conducted
A large population study has been conducted by the Centers for Diseases Control’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics, involving more than 6,00 participants. The study aimed to examine whether gum disease and oral infections could cause dementia.
The participants for this particular study had all received dental exams for any sign of decay and disease. Further, these participants undertook several blood tests that checked for any antibodies that fought against causative bacteria. These antibodies were subsequently examined against the 19 oral bacteria associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The results showed that of these 19, Porphyromonas gingivalis is usually responsible for gum disease in humans. In addition, another recent study has suggested that one major hallmark of AD –plaques of beta-amyloid protein– may be produced in response to the above infection.
The examination further revealed that older adults with baseline mouth infections and gum disease were at a higher risk of AD. In addition, for adults aged 65 and older, both AD diagnoses and deaths were linked closely to the antibodies that fought against P. gingivalis, which may cluster with other bacteria in the mouth and increase the risk of dementia.
Conclusively, the scientists mentioned that follow-up studies are essential because the findings indicated the presence of an oral infection before there was a diagnosis of dementia. This is because dementia would typically not enable the patient to brush and floss adequately, which should then lead to gum disease.