Ask the Dentist: Researchers find link between Alzheimer's and gum-disease bacteria

Researchers have found that bacteria that cause gum disease can move from the mouth to the brain, which can ultimately lead to dementia

ARM yourself with a toothbrush if you want to improve your memory. Researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway have discovered that there is a link between gum problems and whether a person develops Alzheimer's.

Dementia develops when the brain is damaged by diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease. According to the World Alzheimer's Report, it is believed that the number of people suffering from Alzheimer's and other dementia will double every 20 years ahead.

Lead researcher on the study Piotr Mydel said: “We discovered DNA-based proof that the bacteria causing gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain. The bacteria produces a protein that destroys nerve cells in the brain, which in turn leads to loss of memory and ultimately, Alzheimer's."

Mydel stressed that the bacteria are not causing Alzheimer's alone, but the presence of these bacteria raises the risk of developing the disease substantially and they are also implicated in a more rapid progression of the disease.

This is a good example of how the body works on a tine tiny scale. We are used to looking at the body on an enormous scale but every second there are millions of cellular interactions going on that keep our bodies working.

Most people act when there is an obvious problem with their body, like when they feel pain or have a bad taste or smell. However, this in general is really acting after the horse has bolted. It can take 10, 20 or 30 years of neglecting our body or putting the incorrect fuel into it before any of our senses are able to detect that something has gone wrong. Gum disease is no exception: pain is only felt when it is in the end stages.

Our body works in quite a specific way and by looking after it we can maximise our health and reduce the chances of getting a disease. This doesn’t take expensive equipment or medicines or research or more money, but it does take effort on our part to look after our body machine in the way that it was designed.

The best way is to encourage young children to adopt good brushing habits from very young. However, anyone can turn their mouth around at any stage by adopting an effective cleaning routine. So, if you have bleeding gums or loose teeth try not to avoid the problem and pretend it will go away on its own. Ask your dentist or hygienist to show you how to look after your gums properly and benefit not only from a healthy mouth but also hopefully a healthier brain.

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