Oral health matters because gum and dental diseases are associated with other health problems, such as heart disease, respiratory infections, and even memory loss. Dentists pay attention not only to oral health but also physical health. Periodontists treat and prevent periodontal disease (gum disease), helping patients maintain healthy gums to reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
Oral bacteria and Alzheimer's disease
A study in the scientific journal Science Advances found that P. gingivalis, the bacteria that causes gum disease, has a clear link to Alzheimer's disease. Researchers found this bacterium in brain tissue, cerebrospinal fluid, and saliva of both living and deceased people with Alzheimer's. Gingipains, the toxic enzymes from P. gingiwalis bacteria, were found in the brain tissues of 96% of 53 samples. They appeared in high levels in people with pathology and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
Mark I. Ryder, DMD, a dentist specialized in gum disease at the University of California, found evidence that P. gingivalis causes the formation of amyloid proteins that lead to Alzheimer's. These findings were confirmed by animal studies. P. gingivalis can move from the mouth to the brain, where its gingipains destroy brain tissue. This study helps explain the biological mechanism by which periodontitis-causing bacteria cause Alzheimer's.
How important is oral health?
Dr. Richard Kao, DDS, PhD, President of the Society of Periodontology, which gathers 8,000 periodontal dentists, stresses the role of gum health in overall health. Periodontists have known for a long time that good oral health contributes to a healthy body. Research suggests a relationship between gum disease and dementia such as Alzheimer's. This latest discovery clearly shows how gum disease can contribute to Alzheimer's disease. It also emphasizes the importance of caring for gum disease. This is especially true in those over 60 or those at high risk of developing dementia.
The study adds to evidence of a link between gum disease and Alzheimer's disease. But further studies are needed to better understand the causes of Alzheimer's and explain how bacteria that cause gum disease exacerbate Alzheimer's. Phase 2 clinical trials by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are about to begin. They will study the benefits of using gingipain toxin inhibitors to reduce the incidence and severity of Alzheimer's. The results of this clinical study will provide further insights into the link between gum disease and Alzheimer's.
Dr. Richard Gao encourages people of 60 and over and other at-risk groups to maintain good oral health and treat gum disease promptly to help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's. More than half of the US population over 30 have gum disease. And the prevalence rises to 68% in people aged 65 and over. Brushing your teeth regularly and flossing once a day, as well as going to see a dentist, will help identify the disease and treat it appropriately. This can help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
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