New Study Links Gum Disease-Causing Bacteria to Alzheimer's

A most interesting and disturbing study has just been published in the peer reviewed Journal of Science Advances, vol. 5 #1, January, 2019. As reported by CBS News, a mouth bacterium, P. Gingivalis, and the toxins it produces in CHRONIC periodontal disease are being linked to Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

At this point, the link is merely an “association”, not a “cause”, but the authors state that they feel it plays a “central role in the pathogenesis of AD”. The study joins a couple other studies which are indicating a link. A 2017 study in Taiwan indicated “people with chronic gum disease lasting 10 years had a 70 percent increased risk for developing Alzheimer's”. Another small study published in 2016 in the journal PLOS ONE found gum disease was associated with a six-fold increase in the rate of cognitive decline in people with mild to moderate dementia.

There is a chicken or egg question that the authors raise—in other words, what comes first—the lack of proper periodontal hygiene, or are the finding that most Alzheimer’s patients have poor oral hygiene which leads to the finding of the pathogen. However the authors mention “that brain infection with P. gingivalis is not a result of poor dental care following the onset of dementia or a consequence of late-stage disease, but is an early event that can explain the pathology found in middle-aged individuals before cognitive decline.” That I find scary!

Caution is advised before jumping to conclusions. The Alzheimer’s Association also mentions diet, exercise and cardiovascular health are also important in preventing AD. It’s going to take a lot more research to confirm the above, but boy, to my mind, it brings forth the need to exercise good periodontal health. The overwhelming majority of people that I see have bleeding gums, and as I’ve mentioned before, if blood goes out, bugs can go in. I would urge you if you are not using the perio aids we gave you to start rethinking your laxity in using this device.

Other research shows that a toothbrush can only clean about 2-3 mm. below the gum line, and many of you have periodontal pockets of 5 mm. or greater, which means unless you develop a system for cleaning that deep under the gum line, those areas are not being cleaned, and if that skin on the inside of the gum tissue ulcerates, bacteria and their toxins can enter the blood stream.

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