The Unexpected Link Between Gum Disease & Alzheimer’s

An estimated 5.7 million Americans are currently diagnosed and living with Alzheimer’s disease. As one of the fastest-growing epidemics in the US, it’s becoming more and more clear that Alzheimer’s isn’t quite what it seems. In fact, researchers are beginning to question whether it is really just a degenerative brain disease. There is a growing suspicion that the problems that lead to Alzheimer’s may originate outside of the brain.

Some people refer to Alzheimer’s disease as type III diabetes because of the growing link between the degenerative brain disease and insulin resistance. However, recent research has uncovered another interesting link to Alzheimer’s: the health of your gums.

Gum Disease and Alzheimer’s Study

A recent study demonstrated that the pathogen related to gum disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis, is also found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

The theory is that this bacteria creates destructive enzymes, known as gingipains, which infiltrate the brain and cause inflammatory damage. In the research, over 90 percent of Alzheimer’s disease samples contained some form of gingipains. These inflammatory enzymes were also identified in the samples of cerebrospinal fluid.

This isn’t the first time this bacteria has been linked to other, more serious chronic diseases. In fact, 100 percent of patients with cardiovascular disease has Porphyromonas gingivalis colonizing their arteries.

Of course, these things don’t necessarily indicate causation, but they are worth noting.

Senior man at the dentist

Preventing Gum Disease for a Healthier Brain

The cause of gum disease (or periodontal disease) is relatively simple. Plaque and bacteria build up in between the teeth and cause the gums and the tooth itself to become inflamed.

According to the recent research, if left untreated, the gingipains release by the this gum bacteria could potentially build up in the brain. In fact, they seem to be associated with the buildup of amyloid beta plaques in the brain—a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

There is a growing theory that amyloid beta functions as an antimicrobial peptide, pointing to a possible infectious cause of Alzheimer’s rather than simple degeneration. That’s leading many researchers to ask: is Alzheimer’s caused by a bacterial infection?

So, those regular dental checkups may be even more important than you realize. The best way to reduce your risk for gum disease is to brush and floss regularly and make sure you stick to your regular dental checkups. Not only will you have a healthier mouth, but that good oral hygiene may pay off dividends when it comes to your brain health, too.

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51 comments

hELEN h
hELEN hyesterday

tyfs

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R2 days ago

Thank you for posting

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Chad A
Chad Anderson7 days ago

Thank you.

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Emma L
Emma L9 days ago

thank you

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Greta L
Greta L12 days ago

Thank you

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Ruth S
Ruth S15 days ago

Thanks.

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Ruth S
Ruth S15 days ago

Thanks.

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heather g
heather g17 days ago

Once people are in long-term care, they don't have dental visits. Even retirement homes, especially if they don't drive, dental visits fall off the calendar.

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Past Member
Past Member 17 days ago

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Colin C
Colin C18 days ago

Thanks for the tip about the sonic toothbrush Clare O'Beara in your post.

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