Brushing and flossing teeth can help postpone Alzheimer's disease, new research shows

According to new findings, gum disease (gingivitis) plays a "decisive" role in whether a person will develop Alzheimer's or not


                            Brushing and flossing teeth can help postpone Alzheimer's disease, new research shows

The next time you brush your teeth, consider this: It is not only preventing cavity and tooth decay, but it could also ward off or postpone Alzheimer's. According to a new study by The University of Bergen, Norway, gum disease (gingivitis) plays a "decisive role" in whether a person will develop Alzheimer's or not. "We discovered DNA-based proof that the bacteria causing gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain," said researcher Piotr Mydel at Broegelmanns Research Laboratory, Department of Clinical Science, University of Bergen, in a news release.

For many years, Mydel has been investigating how different bacteria are implicated in Alzheimer's disease. The new study, which has been published in 'Science Advances', revealed the bacteria causing gingivitis produces a protein that destroys nerve cells in the brain.

This, in turn, leads to loss of memory and ultimately, Alzheimer's, says the study. "The findings of this study offer evidence that P.gingivalis and gingipains in the brain play a central role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's Disease, providing a new conceptual framework for disease treatment. Although not specifically addressed in this report, once the oral cavity is infected, P. gingivalis may access the brain and spread via a number of pathways," said the paper. 

According to facts published by The University of Bergen, the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis (P.gingivalis) is one of the primary causes of infection in the gums. "The bacteria cause chronic infection in the gums but can move to the brain where it can damage nerve cells in the brain. In addition to Alzheimer's, the bacteria is linked to rheumatism, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and esophageal cancer," it says.

Explaining further, Mydel said the bacteria is not causing Alzheimer's alone, but the presence of these bacteria increases the risk for developing the disease substantially and are also implicated in a more "rapid progression of the disease."

The study, however, shows what steps can be taken by an individual to slow down Alzheimer's. And it is as simple as brushing the teeth and using floss, said the research team. Mydel added that if an individual has gingivitis and also has Alzheimer's in the family, it is critical to go to the dentist regularly and clean the teeth properly.

According to the university release: "Researchers have previously discovered that the bacteria causing gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain where the harmful enzymes they excrete can destroy the nerve cells in the brain. However, this is the first time that researchers have DNA-evidence for this process from human brains."

The research team examined 53 persons with Alzheimer's for their study. Results showed that the enzyme was present in 96% of the cases. According to the research team, the finding gives researchers a possible new approach or strategy to combat Alzheimer's disease.

Taking their findings forward, Mydel said in the release that his team has developed a drug that blocks the harmful enzymes from the bacteria, which thereby postpones the development of Alzheimer's. He further added they are planning to test the drug later this year.

"We have designed an orally bioavailable, brain-penetrant (Kgp) inhibitor currently being tested in human clinical studies for Alzheimer's Disease. The present data indicate that treatment with a potent and selective (Kgp) inhibitor will reduce P. gingivalis infection in the brain and slow or prevent further neurodegeneration and accumulation of pathology in Alzheimer's Disease patients," the paper revealed.