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The link between teeth and Alzheimer’s

Most of us clean our teeth daily because we don’t want nasty bacteria causing cavities and other oral and digestive issues. However, as it turns out, a dirty mouth is linked to so much more than halitosis and cavities. Researchers have now linked gum disease and bad oral hygiene to Alzheimer’s, and it’s a real danger.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that affects mostly the elderly. It affects the nerves and results in memory loss, including interference with logical thinking and behaviour.

How is it linked to gum disease?

According to Science Daily, researchers have determined that gum disease (gingivitis) plays a decisive role in whether or not patients will develop Alzheimer´s.

Researcher Piotr Mydel at Broegelmanns Research Laboratory, Department of Clinical Science, University of Bergen (UiB) says; “we discovered DNA-based proof that the bacteria causing gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain”.

The bacteria produces a protein that destroys nerve cells in the brain, which as a result, leads to loss of memory and ultimately, Alzheimer´s. There has been speculation that bacteria in the mouth can kill brain cells, and for years scientists have worked on proving the link between brain health and oral hygiene.

It is important to understand that the bacteria doesn’t cause Alzheimer’s, necessarily, but has the potential to aggravate it.

A different study published in Science Advances found that a certain type of bacteria in periodontitis, called Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis) was also present in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s, Alzheimer’ reported.

Is it avoidable?

“Brush your teeth and use floss,” is Mydel’s very straight forward solution to preventing oral hygiene from causing negative effects like Alzheimer’s.

Not everyone who has gum disease will go on to develop Alzheimer’s and not everyone who has Alzheimer’s has necessarily neglected their oral health.

“We have managed to develop a drug that blocks the harmful enzymes from the bacteria, postponing the development of Alzheimer´s. We are planning to test this drug later this year,” he continued.