At our Eugene Family dental office, Dr. Feldmanis works hard to ensure that every patients enjoys a healthy, great looking smile. After all, your oral health matters. Not only does a great looking smile give you confidence, but a smile free of dental disease and decay also significantly lowers your risk for developing a range of chronic conditions.
Those who regularly read our blog know that a growing amount of research has found surprising connections between our oral health and overall health. Studies have discovered that individuals dealing with tooth decay, severe gum disease and tooth loss have a significantly higher risk for developing a range of health problems that include heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. Now a new study has further highlighted another connection to gum disease – an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Long-term exposure to the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis causes inflammation and the degeneration of neurons in the brains of mice that is similar to the effect Alzheimer’s disease has on humans, according to the results of a study conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Based on the findings of this study, researchers believe that periodontitis – a severe form of gum disease – may actually be an initiator of Alzheimer’s.
“Other studies have demonstrated a close association between periodontitis and cognitive impairment, but this is the first study to show that exposure to the periodontal bacteria results in the formation of senile plaques that accelerate the development of the neuropathology found in Alzheimer’s patients,” wrote the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Keiko Watanabe.
Researchers were surprised by their discovery, as they did not expect that the bacteria most responsible for the development of gum disease would exert as much influence on the brain or help to advance Alzheimer’s disease.
The results of the study were published in the journal PLOS One.
Discovering a Connection
As part of their study on oral bacteria’s impact on the brain, researchers established cases of chronic periodontitis in 10 wild mice, while another 10 mice served as a control group. Following 22 weeks of observation and testing, researchers studied the brain tissue of the mice and compared the brain health of the different groups.
The mice exposed to the harmful oral bacteria responsible for gum disease exhibited significantly higher amount of accumulated amyloid beta, a type of plaque found in the brain tissue of Alzheimer’s patients. The study group was also found to have developed more brain inflammation and have fewer remaining intact neurons due to neural degeneration.
The findings of the study were further reinforced by amyloid beta protein analysis and RNA analysis that showed an increased expression of the genes most closely associated with inflammation and degeneration in the study group. DNA derived from the oral bacteria was also found in the brain tissue of mice in the study group, while the bacterial protein was discovered inside their neurons.
“Our data not only demonstrates the movement of bacteria from the mouth to the brain, but also that chronic infection leads to neural effects similar to Alzheimer’s,” wrote researchers.
Researchers stressed that understanding the risk factors for Alzheimer’s development is vital to the creation of treatments, especially when it comes to a late-onset of the disease, which constitutes over 95 percent of Alzheimer’s cases.
Protecting Your Health
This study further helps to illustrate the connection between our oral and overall health.
“Oral hygiene is an important predictor of disease, including diseases that happen outside of the mouth,” wrote Dr. Watanabe. “People can do so much more for their personal health by taking oral health seriously.”
At our Eugene Family dental office, Dr. Feldmanis provides patients with the type of advanced dental care needed to help ensure they reduce their risk for gum disease and all of the other types of diseases that have been linked to poor oral health. While many patients view visiting the dentist as a chore, this and other studies have continued to show just how important our oral health is to enjoying a happy and healthy life.