Could gum disease be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease?

A new line of research that could lead the charge in fighting Alzheimer’s disease in the future has been announced, with a recent study adding to growing evidence that there is a strong link between gum disease and dementia.

A global problem

The new research is promising news for the 50 million people worldwide living with dementia, especially since the failure rate of drug development for Alzheimer’s is estimated to be around 99 per cent. This month, Biogen and Eisai dropped their trials on an experimental treatment, Aducanumab.

Living with dementia can be a frightening and debilitating experience, one that poses challenges for both individuals and their families. Dementia is now the fifth biggest cause of death worldwide, with Alzheimer’s accounting for 70 per cent of these cases.

The cause of dementia remains one of medicine’s biggest mysteries, but could this new research prove to be the game-changer we so desperately need?

A new direction

In January 2019, scientists from Cortexyme and several international universities released compelling evidence that Alzheimer’s is caused by bacterium involved in common gum disease.

The complete explanation of these findings can be found in this article by New Scientist, with the main points below:

• One of the chief causes of gum disease, the pathogen ‘P. gingivalis’, produces protein-degrading toxic enzymes called ‘gingipains’.
• P. gingivalis damages the lining of your mouth, possibly allowing oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream and then other organs, i.e. the brain.
• Researchers found gingipains in 51 of the 54 Alzheimer brain samples (taken from the hippocampus, an area important for memory) they examined.
• They also found that P. gingivalis spread from the mouths to the brains of mice, and tests on the animals confirmed that gingipain enzymes destroyed brain neurons, therefore leading to memory loss.

A possible treatment?

The scientists hope that they can stop or even reverse Alzheimer’s using molecules they developed to block gingipains. The firm found that giving some of these to mice with P. gingivalis infections reduced brain infection, lowered brain inflammation and even rescued damaged neurons.

Dr Stephen Dominy, one of the study authors, said: “Now, for the first time, we have solid evidence connecting [P. gingivalis] and Alzheimer’s pathogenesis, while also demonstrating the potential for a class of small molecule therapies to change the trajectory of the disease.”

Could our mouths really hold the key?

The latest scientific study makes a compelling case for good dental hygiene. At Unique Senior Care we hope that this new research will lead to effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease; however, it is clear that more research is needed.

That said, even if gum disease is found not to be the cause of Alzheimer’s, it can still result in many health complications, particularly in older age. We suggest visiting your dentist for more advice on good dental hygiene – we can arrange for transport as part of our Transportation service.

According to the British Dental Association, around 45 per cent of us suffer from gum disease, which is something we need to address – especially with this new evidence that protecting our gums could protect our brains, too!

Our Dementia Care service

Here at Unique Senior Care, we have many years of experience supporting older people to maintain their independence. As a result, our Caregivers all receive bespoke training to give them the skills they need to care for sufferers of dementia, so they get the care they deserve.

We offer a range of services to support people living with dementia and help them live a fulfilling and independent life at home. Read more about our Dementia Care services here. If you are interested in arranging dementia care for a loved one, get in touch to discuss your needs further.

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