London- Bacteria linked to gum disease has been found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting that oral hygiene may be linked to the development of the memory-robbing illness says new British research. This is yet another indication that good dental hygiene can play a key role in warding off this much feared disease that seems to be plaguing more and more elderly individuals. The first studies implicated chronic gum inflammation with a higher risk of dementia. In this research signs of the bacterium, known as Porphyromonas gingivtas, were found in four out of 10 samples of brain tissue from Alzheimer’s patients, while no signs of the bacterium were found in the 10 samples of brains of people of similar age who had not developed the disease.
Although the bacteria live in the mouth, they seem to be able to enter the bloodstream during eating, chewing, tooth brushing or dental surgery, and potentially reach the brain, experts said.
Inflammation caused by gum disease-related bacteria has already been linked to various health problems including diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
The arrival of the bug in the brain could cause the immune system to release chemicals which kill brain cells, causing the confusion and memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s.
“We are working on the theory that when the brain is repeatedly exposed to bacteria and/or their debris from our gums, subsequent immune responses may lead to nerve cell death and possibly memory loss,” Dr. Sim Singhrao, one of the authors of the study, said.
“Our hypothesis is that this is a chronic assault. It is not happening overnight, it is a build-up over years. But all we have shown so far is that bacteria from the gum region get into the brain. We haven’t proven that they cause Alzheimer’s disease,” said Professor St. John Crean, dean of the school of medicine and dentistry at UCLan.
These findings would seem to make a strong case for regular brushing and flossing which has been proven to be an effective way to keep the levels of bacteria that live in the mouth low. Who knew that brushing could keep your breath minty fresh and your brain healthy all at the same time.