Strengthening the Link between Gum Disease and Alzheimer’s
Oral health is an important component of your overall health. That’s why it’s important to visit your dentist regularly to make sure you are getting the proper preventive dental care to combat oral diseases like cavities and gum disease. We continue to learn more serious effects of these problems on your overall health.
One of the more alarming connections is the growing link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease, discovered more than 15 years ago. Previous work showed that evidence of gum disease infection was present in over 90% of autopsied brains with Alzheimer’s disease. Other studies showed that when mice were exposed to certain oral bacteria, they began to evidence Alzheimer’s like brain degeneration.
For this study, researchers used human stem cells to develop neurons that they could examine outside the brain. They then exposed the neurons to a common oral bacterium, Porphyromonas gingivalis.
The P. gingivalis bacteria made their way into the neurons, colonizing them at many different locations. The neurons did not immediately die. However as researchers monitored the cells at 24, 48, and 72 hours after exposure, the neurons soon began to show signs of damage from the infection, many of which resemble the changes that Alzheimer’s disease inflicts on the brain. This includes the loss of synapses, the vital connections between brain cells that allow for memory and thought to be transmitted through the brain. The loss of synapses is considered one of the earliest indicators of Alzheimer’s disease.
Evidence of neuron damage occurred by 48 hours after exposure. Eventually, the neurons died from the effects of infection.
Gingipains in the Brain
As the connection between oral bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease grows stronger, people are looking more at the exact mechanisms by which the bacteria could be causing the brain damage. One of the greatest suspects in gingipains, enzymes released by P. gingivalis. Gingipains perform a number of functions. It helps the bacteria to break down proteins to feed itself. Gingipains also suppress the body’s immune response, making it harder for the body to combat gum disease.
Prevent Gum Disease to Protect Your Health–and Your Brain
If you want to maintain your health in top condition, it’s important to get regular preventive care from a dentist. This can help you control gum disease, which will not only help you keep your teeth, it might help you keep your mind longer.