Oral Health May Affect Alzheimer’s Disease

Ellie Teng ‘21

Degenerative Disease
Figure 1. Maintaining good oral health may do more than just prevent cavities.

Alzheimer’s disease is a condition that affects millions per year by destroying and reducing mental functions. Dementia, the loss of memory, is a common symptom of this disease. Recent studies have shown a surprising connection between Alzhemer’s and maintaining good oral hygiene. Scientists at the University of Bergen have determined gum disease to be a factor in the development of Alzheimer’s in an individual.

Porphyromonas gingivalis and gingipains, toxic proteases released from bacterium, were found in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. P. gingivalis is the periodontitis causing pathogen; it causes inflammation and weakens the gums that support teeth. This bacteria is found in the mouth but can spread to the brain by infecting monocytes, endothelial cells protecting the blood- brain barrier, and cranial nerves to the brain. Gingipains were found to be neurotoxic in vivo and in vitro and  has detrimental effects on tau, a protein necessary for normal neuronal function. In the experiment, the enzyme secreted by P. gingivalis, responsible for neuron destruction, was detected in 96% of 53 Alzheimer patients.  

From the study, new information was gathered to develop a drug that blocks the harmful enzymes from the bacteria, thereby postponing the development of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s can be delayed or prevented by regularly brushing and flossing your teeth. If maintaining oral health isn’t convincing enough, preventing Alzheimer’s disease should serve as another reason to brush your teeth.

 

References

  1. S. Dominy, et al., Porphyromonas gingivalis in Alzheimer’s disease brains: Evidence for disease causation and treatment with small-molecule inhibitors. Science Advances (2019). doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aau3333.
  2. Image retrieved from: https://wtkr.com/2017/03/29/older-women-with-gum-disease-face-higher-risk-of-early-death-study-says/
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