Does Gum Disease Have A Key Role In Alzheimer’s?

According to an article published in Science Daily, scientists believe there is a correlation between the bacteria of chronic gum disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis (Pg)and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

Also in an article published in the journal of Science Advances

the University of Louisville researcher Jan Potempa, Ph.D., Department of Oral Immunology and Infectious Diseases in the School of Dentistry, was part of the team of international scientists led by Cortexyme Inc., a privately held, clinical-stage pharmaceutical company.

This current study discovered Pg in the brains of patients with AD.  Brains of patients with AD have a build up of protein plaques in them and Pg was found to be in those plaques.  

Scientists doing this new study examined and tested brain tissues, spinal fluids and saliva from living and dead patients with AD.

Their research shows that the bacteria Pg is linked to AD because of the toxic protein, gingipain, that Pg secretes which ends up destroying brain neurons.  Their study also shows in tests with mice that Pg does travel from the mouth to the brain. 

Researchers believe that Pg ends up in the brain in two ways.  One by infecting immune system cells and the other way is by spreading Pg through cranial nerves that pass through the head and the jaw.

Rebecca Edelmayer, Ph.D., director of scientific engagement for the Alzheimer’s Association, told CBS News“…what this paper suggests is really an association and not causation and that should be very clearly emphasized when we’re talking about studies like this. More research is needed to really identify a causative role for microbes.”

Other studies have been done previously that have linked gum disease and dementia. For instance a study done in Taiwan revealed that people with a 10-year or longer history of chronic gum disease were 70% more likely to develop AD than those without that gum condition.

However, other scientist also counter that it’s possible that people with AD have poorer oral health because AD hampers their ability to take good regular care of their teeth. 

The organization Alzheimer’s Researchers in the UK also believes that it is highly unlikely that the presence in the brain of only one particular disease is the cause of AD.

Edelmayer said, “We think a lot about things like diet, exercise, a good management of cardiovascular health, getting good sleep. All of these things could potentially play a role as a lifestyle intervention for decreasing your risk of developing cognitive decline,”

Prof Clive Ballard, from the University of Exeter, said this new study however, does suggest that oral health should have a higher priority in public health especially for seniors since oral health is a very important part of overall health in more ways than one.