Alzheimer’s & Periodontitis

A new study makes some groundbreaking claims, demonstrating that long-term exposure to periodontitis mimics the effects of Alzheimer’s. Learn what the latest link between dental health and overall health means for you.

The Link Between Periodontitis and Alzheimer’s

In the new study, scientists used mice that were given chronic periodontitis, and another control group of healthy mice. Over 22 weeks, scientists gave bacteria to one group of mice, then looked at the brain health of both groups of mice. The mice who were given bacteria had significantly greater amounts of amyloid beta, which is a type of plaque that is found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. The mice who were infected with the bacteria also had higher levels of inflammation and more neuron degeneration in the brain.

The scientists relied on wild-type mice for this study, rather than the transgenic mice that are typically used in Alzheimer’s studies. Transgenic mice have had their genes altered for predisposition toward Alzheimer’s, whereas wild-type mice have no such predisposition toward the degenerative condition. Since the wild-type mice were not inclined toward Alzheimer’s, the fact that they developed disease indicators after receiving periodontitis suggests there is a causal relationship at play.

Previous studies have indicated that there is a link between cognitive issues and periodontitis. What makes the new study so remarkable is that it is the first to show that periodontal bacteria leads to the development of the plaques that are found in Alzheimer’s patients — and also that the bacteria can move from the mouth into the brain, depositing as plaque. These brain plaques suggest that long term, untreated periodontitis can actually increase your risk of contracting Alzheimer’s, for which there is no cure. Oral health conditions may even cause the development of Alzheimer’s.

While more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between these two conditions, the important takeaway here is how your oral hygiene impacts your overall health, by showing how conditions like gum disease will lead to long-term health issues if not treated.

What’s more, the new study illustrates one of the potential leading factors that contributes to Alzheimer’s — a breakthrough because the causes of the condition are largely unknown. Only when causes and risk factors have been identified can researchers hone in on a cure for this devastating condition.

If you want to age well and enjoy a high quality of life, then you must take care of your oral hygiene. The scientists who led this study affirmed the importance of taking oral health seriously. Taking care of your mouth will not just prevent cavities and gingivitis, it could prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s or other debilitating conditions!

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