We all know that gum disease is bad for our overall health, but what if it is more dangerous than we initially thought? New research is expanding our understanding of the bacteria and pathogens responsible for gum disease. With this new knowledge, scientists are considering the fact that there may be a link between the neurodegenerative condition of Alzheimer’s disease and gum disease.
Where is this new information coming from? Let’s take a more in-depth look at just what scientists are saying about this new connection:
According to a new study published in Science Advances, researchers found the pathogen porphyromonas gingivalis in the brain tissue of deceased patients with Alzheimer’s. If this wasn’t enough to intrigue researchers, they also found the DNA of the same pathogen in the spinal fluid of those currently living with the disease. This particular bacterium is associated with gum disease.
Along with the presence of this bacterium, they also discovered toxic enzymes manufactured by the P. gingivalis in many of the brain samples. These enzymes, referred to as gingipains, correlated with higher amounts of proteins that are linked directly to Alzheimer’s disease.
Experiments in mice are underway to examine just how this connection works. They are already making great headway, but there is still a lot to learn. For example, they have discovered that when they infect the gums of the mice with the bacterium, it later shows up in their brains. The connection also demonstrates neuron damage and high levels of the protein beta-amyloid in the brain. The latter forms plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
While we are not close to uncovering a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, scientists are still hard at work uncovering the impact of gum disease. Fortunately, they are one step closer to doing so thanks to these new studies.
The mice experiments proved to be quite helpful. Researchers were able to remove the P. gingivalis infection in the brain using a molecule that binds to the toxic enzymes it produces. It simultaneously stops the production of beta-amyloid and slows down some of the neuron damage.
How does this treatment actually work? Well, the exact mechanism is unclear but there is a theory - The bacterium in the brain is reliant on the toxic enzymes to gather nutrients and supply it with the energy it needs to continue thriving. When the molecule binds to these enzymes or gingipains, it can no longer feed the bacterium.
A Silver Lining
The research is still in its early stages, and it is too soon to tell whether this study will have much merit in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. Many in the community comment that there are too many limitations on this particular study to provide solid evidence for causation between gum disease and Alzheimer’s.
The best thing you can do right now is to get rid of gum disease as quickly as possible. There are definitely consequences to letting gum disease thrive and the development of Alzheimer’s could potentially be one of them. If you need help with your gum disease, contact your local Winnipeg dental clinic today!