A recent study led by scientists at the National Institutes of Aging (NIA) found that the bacteria that cause periodontal disease are also associated with dementias, particularly vascular dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Periodontal disease is caused by infections of oral tissues holding our teeth in place. Researchers claim that bacteria and the inflammatory molecules they create can travel from dental infections through the bloodstream to the brain.
The research team from the NIA used publicly available data from a large population study performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics. They examined the potential link between gum disease and dementia using data linkages with Medicare records and the National Death Index, for more than 6,000 participants.
Participants received a dental exam and a blood test for antibodies against bacteria. The team analyzed antibodies against oral bacteria for an association with the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, diagnosis of any kind of dementia, and death from Alzheimer’s. Of these 19 bacteria tested for, Porphyromonas gingivalis (P gingivalis) is the most common culprit of gum disease. Studies have shown that plaques of beta-amyloid protein, a major hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, may be produced as a response to this infection. In the study it was found that both Alzheimer’s diagnoses and deaths were associated with antibodies against P gingivalis.
A long-term follow-up to this study is needed, according to the researchers, as they note that population studies can show association but not causality. They emphasize that clinical trials are needed to test whether treating infections with P gingivalis can reduce the development or symptoms of dementia.
Read more at Dentistry Today.