Scientists still don’t know exactly what causes Alzheimer’s disease, but since 1984, problems with brain proteins failing to work properly has been thought to be a root cause (www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease). You may have read about protein “plaques” and “tangles” in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
Now some studies point to another possible cause of Alzheimer’s – a particular type of gingivitis, which is a disease of the gums (www.newscientist.com/article/2191814-we-may-finally-know-what-causes-alzheimers-and-how-to-stop-it).
Inflammation from gingivitis can lead to tooth loss, and studies have shown that people with fewer teeth are more likely to have dementia. In lab research, the Porphyromonas gingivalis bacteria that can cause gum disease was given to mice. The mice developed the protein tangles and neural damage typically seen in Alzheimer’s patients.
Clinical trials are now testing a drug that blocks the main toxins of P. gingivalis, with the hope the drug will stop and even reverse Alzheimer’s disease. As always, research scientists are cautious. Since previously Alzheimer’s disease was thought to be inherited, the studies will continue.
Whether or not gingivitis leads to Alzheimer’s, the good news is that gingivitis is reversible with good oral hygiene at home and regular cleanings by dental professionals. Something to ponder as you floss.