We know that gum disease is linked to a wide range of health problems, but now researchers have proposed that gum disease might be one of the primary causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers note that inflammation of the brain is a common feature of Alzheimer’s disease, and that oral bacteria contribute to inflammation throughout the body. Although this connection is by no means certain, researchers recommend that preventive treatment be initiated early to try to stave off the negative effects of the disease.
How Oral Bacteria Reach the Brain
In a recent review of over 200 studies looking at the possible connection between Alzheimer’s disease and oral bacteria, scientist break down the possible methods by which oral bacteria can reach the brain.
The most likely pathway, they say, is via the bloodstream. Since bacteria enter our bloodstream several times a day, causing bacteremia–blood infections that can last for hours. However, there is the question of the blood-brain barrier, which is supposed to keep microorganisms out of the brain. However, studies have shown that distributed infections of oral microorganisms, including the normally harmless Candida fungi, can break down the blood-brain barrier, allowing bacteia to enter the brain.
Another possible pathway is via the circumventricular organs. These are various glands and sensory organs that connect to the brain but don’t have the normal blood-brain barrier. Basically, these organs allow bacteria to simply go around the blood-brain barrier.
Perivascular spaces could also allow bacteria to enter the brain. These spaces around blood vessels contain fluids that could allow bacteria to go around the blood-brain barrier.
Finally, it’s possible that bacteria could travel directly on nerves that link to the brain. The trigeminal nerve and the olfactory nerve have already been identified as pathways used by oral bacteria to go toward the brain.
Combat Alzheimer’s Disease Risk
Although researchers have not definitively linked gum disease to Alzheimer’s disease, they have shown that oral bacteria have many easy routes to the brain, that they can cause inflammation, and that inflammation of the brain is a key component of Alzheimer’s disease. They recommend that treatment of gum disease could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, but that it will have to be implemented early because the damage is done over time. It can also help prevent your need for gum graft surgery.
If you are looking for gum disease treatment or preventive dentistry in Beverly Hills, please call for an appointment with a periodontist at Ravon Knopf.