Like Between Gum Disease and Dementia May Hold the Key to Treating Alzheimer’s

Like Between Gum Disease and Dementia May Hold the Key to Treating Alzheimer’s

Eugene family dental care plays a much bigger role in determining the health of more than just our teeth and gums. At Feldmanis Family Dentistry, we want to educate our patients on the potentially unforeseen risks they may face from untreated tooth decay and gum disease. By understanding the importance of preventative dental care, we hope that patients can live longer, healthier lives.

Brushing, flossing, and scheduling regular exams and cleanings with Dr. Feldmanis will not only keep your smile looking its best, practicing quality preventative dental care can also lower your risk for Alzheimer’s disease, according to a recent study.

While research has previously linked Alzheimer’s disease to poor oral health, researchers now believe they have discovered a clear connection between these seemingly disparate health problems. In their most recent study, researchers discovered that 96 percent of patients with Alzheimer’s participating in the study were also found to have enzymes responsible for the development of gum disease in their brains.

The research team was then able to show how oral bacteria believed responsible for the development of gum disease was able to travel through the bloodstream and into the brain where it could destroy neurons.

Researchers hope that by targeting these oral bacteria they may be able to finally find the key to defeating Alzheimer’s. Researchers have already developed a drug they hope to conduct human trails in the coming months.

The Link Between Alzheimer’s and Gum Disease

Researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway believe they have discovered DNA-based proof that the bacteria most responsible for the development of early stage gum disease, commonly referred to as gingivitis, can move throughout the body from the mouth to the brain.

A mild form of gum disease, gingivitis irritates gum tissue, causing a patient’s gums to become red, swollen, tender, and to bleed easily, especially after brushing and flossing. Approximately 50 percent of all Americans over the age of 30 have gum disease, according to a recent American Dental Association study.

The bacteria, known as Porphyromonas gingivalis, creates a protein that kills nerve cells in the brain. This leads to the development of memory loss, and, eventually, dementia.

Announcing the findings of their study, researchers issued a statement that read: “Brush your teeth – postpone Alzheimer’s.”

While this tagline may simplify an otherwise more complicated connection, it does help to underline the most important point – our oral health plays an enormous role in determining our long-term health.

The role gum disease plays in the development of Alzheimer’s has divided the medical community for years. While some health experts have refused to see oral health as having any role in the development of dementia, others say that oral bacteria only play a partial role.

The research team agrees that oral bacteria isn’t the sole cause of dementia. However, researchers are now confident that the increased presence of harmful oral bacteria not only greatly increases a patient’s risk for Alzheimer’s, it can also lead to a more rapid progression of the disease. This makes it important that patient’s with a family history of Alzheimer’s make protecting their oral health a bigger priority.

The Potential for Preventing Alzheimer’s

Earlier studies have found the bacteria responsible for the development of gingivitis can freely move from the mouth to the brain where the harmful enzymes the bacteria produces can destroy brain cells. However, the process was largely assumed due to the presence of oral bacteria in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

Based on the findings of their study, researchers now have definitive DNA-based proof that this process can occur in the human brain.

Researchers discovered the oral enzymes called lysine-gingipain in the brains of 51 out of 53 Alzheimer’s patients – a remarkable 96 percent.

Based on the evidence of their study, researchers were able to develop a drug that blocks the harmful oral enzymes from the bacteria, which may successful delay the development of Alzheimer’s.

In studies with mice, the drug has been shown effective at preventing memory loss by blocking the enzymes from the oral bacteria. The drug has already been shown safe in people, and the research team hopes to begin human trial later this year.

As this and other studies have shown, Eugene family dental care matters.

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