Gum disease is the most important cause of receding gums, but that’s not all it’s been linked to. In addition to receding gums, gum disease has been linked to heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease. And now the link with Alzheimer’s disease is much stronger thanks to new research.
In the past, links between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease were based on association or theory. People with gum disease or with missing teeth were more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease. And there was a theoretical link: gum disease caused systemic inflammation, which could be related to Alzheimer’s disease.
But this new study goes one step further. It shows that healthy mice who are exposed to gum disease bacteria for 22 weeks develop damaged brain tissue similar to Alzheimer’s disease. This shows that gum disease could be a major cause of Alzheimer’s disease, perhaps even the single most important cause.
Exposing Wild Mice to Oral Bacteria
For this study, researchers used wild mice–mice that weren’t modified the way some laboratory mice are, although they weren’t caught in the wild. They exposed ten of the mice to the oral pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis three times a week for 22 weeks. Another ten mice used as controls were exposed to just the carrier matrix over the same schedule.
At the end of the study, they examined the brains of both groups of mice.
Toxins and Damaged Brains Similar to Alzheimer’s Disease
When they examined the brains of the mice, they found that the ones exposed to P. gingivalis showed damage very similar to what is seen in early Alzheimer’s disease. Exposed mice had serious neurodegeneration in the brain, including the hippocampus. The exposed mice, but not control mice, had amyloid beta in their brains, a compound that forms plaques on the brain in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Not only that, but the exposed group had bacteria in their brains as well as dangerous byproducts produced by the bacteria.
All of these effects are new discoveries. The fact that gum disease bacteria make it directly to the brain, causing brain damage and setting the stage for Alzheimer’s disease takes us pay past simple association. It really begins to look like gum disease is an important cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
Avoid and Reverse the Effects of Gum Disease
This study shows us again how important it is to protect against the effects of gum disease. Good oral hygiene including brushing and flossing, a healthy diet, and regular dental visits can help prevent gum disease. Gum disease treatment can reverse the course of the disease, providing important protections for your health.
We don’t know yet whether the effects of Gum disease on Alzheimer’s can be reversed. But we do know that receding gums related to gum disease can be reversed. This may help protect your oral health as well as give you a beautiful, healthy-looking smile.