Study Suggests Link Between Alzheimer’s and Periodontitis
The association between periodontal diseases and a variety of systemic diseases is well known, and now researchers may have found another link. New research published online in August in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests that periodontitis may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This assertion, made by a team at the University of Central Lancashire School of Medicine and Dentistry in Preston, England, supports the notion that oral health is directly related to overall health.
This link was based on evaluation of brain samples taken from 20 cadavers, 10 of which were donors who had AD, and 10 from donors who did not have AD. Researchers then looked to identify the presence of periodontal bacteria, such as Porphyromonas gingivalis, in brain tissue. Of the 20 brain tissue samples, four brains from the subjects with AD presented with P. gingivalis. The discovery supports previous studies that suggest periodontitis-related bacteria may enter the bloodstream through daily activities, such as chewing, brushing, and even dental treatment, causing inflammatory responses in other body organs.
The study, “Determining the Presence of Periodontopathic Virulence Factors in Short-Term Postmortem Alzheimer’s Disease Brain Tissue,” asserts that the presence of P. gingivalis in the four brains of donors with AD is not a coincidence. The researchers suggest that upon reaching the brain, the bacteria trigger an immune system response to release chemicals that kill neurons—potentially changing brain chemistry and causing confusion and muddled memory.
The study was limited by the absence of dental records for all 20 subjects, which may have provided insight into the correlation between periodontal disease progression and AD. The researchers state that further scientific inquiry is needed to better understand the strength and relevance of this association.
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