Groundbreaking new research has shed light on what was otherwise a medical mystery, and the results could change the way we look at both Alzheimer’s and dental health. It also means a cure and prevention for this disease may be just around the corner.
As reported across multiple media outlets, and explained well in the New Scientist, the cause of Alzheimer’s has been identified as Porphyromonas gingivalis. Dentists know this bacteria all too well – it is one of the most common types of bacteria responsible for chronic gum disease.
Porphyromonas Gingivalis and Dental Health
Porphyromonas gingivalis is often the most likely contributor to chronic periodontitis, an infection that causes gum and tooth decay and may lead to tooth loss. During your dental exam, one of the reasons we check for bleeding gums is because gums that bleed during brushing or flossing are often in the early stages of an infection – potentially with this porphyromonas gingivalis bacteria.
Regular dental cleanings and treatments can both eliminate and prevent this bacteria buildup. It is a critical tool for protecting your smile and improving your long term dental health.
How Poor Dental Care May Contribute to Alzheimer’s Disease
The idea that good dental hygiene contributes to long term health is not new. Indeed, study after study over the past many decades has linked better dental health to better overall health, with those that care for their teeth more likely to live longer and healthier lives.
But this more definitive link to Alzheimer’s is a new one, and something that may change the way we look at oral hygiene. It was previously believed that Alzheimer’s was caused by a plaque buildup in the brain, and scientists were looking for potential reasons for that plaque buildup (known as amyloid plaques).
What made this complicated is that there were many people that had plaque buildup without any signs of dementia. But scientists now believe that the plaque may not be the cause of Alzheimer’s, but rather a defense mechanism your brain uses to protect itself from the dangerous bacteria. Recent studies have confirmed that not only does porphyromonas gingivalis pass through the blood/brain barrier – it also affects the exact regions of the brain that are linked to Alzheimer’s.
What This Means for the Future
Although the idea that poor dental hygiene may cause Alzheimer’s Disease is a scary one, this can only be seen as good news. If the link between porphyromonas gingivalis and Alzheimer’s continues to be confirmed, scientists may be able to develop a vaccine to prevent against Alzheimer’s, and maybe even a potential cure for those that are already affected.
It also confirms that regular dental cleanings and exams are not just for “dental health.” They’re for all health. That is why it is so important to follow the advice of Dr. Chen and Dr. Skelton, schedule your dental care, and make sure that you are taking care of your smile.