Are Gum Bacteria Eating Your Brain?

January 2nd, 2017
Are Gum Bacteria Eating Your Brain? - Bow Trail Dental - Dentists in Calgary

There is much more than meets the eye when it comes to gum disease. Recent studies have shown a possible correlation between the bacteria that commonly cause gum disease with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Risk Factors

Let’s not get carried away. An illness like Alzheimer’s or dementia is highly complex, and almost impossible to pinpoint to an exact cause. Many different environmental, genetic, and behavioural factors come into play when discussing the causes of these neurodegenerative diseases. For example, age has been found again and again to be a major determinate. How does this relate to gum disease? The sooner you can get treated, the less time you spend exposed to potentially harmful bacteria. It’s important to catch these things early! Other risk factors include diet, which incidentally is also a large contributor to gum disease.

The Research

An examination was performed on donated brain tissue from people with and without dementia by researchers at the University of Central Lancashire. The team discovered that, in patients with dementia, a signature molecule left by bacteria known to cause gum disease could also be found in the oral cavity. It is possible that these bacteria can gain entry to the bloodstream through a sore or cut inside the mouth. A separate study found bacteria plaques, again those known to cause gum disease, also had adverse effects on special cells called microglial cells, which go on to begin producing proteins that encourage inflammation.

What does it mean?

Obviously, more research is  necessary in order to better support this idea. Two isolated cases do not give any cause for panic or alarm, and it’s just as likely that any correlation found is entirely coincidental. However, current results shouldn’t be ignored, and it is the aggregation of all such results that allow us to better our knowledge on the connection between dementia and gum health. For those who don’t buy into brain eating gum bacteria, keep in mind that there are plenty of other reasons why you should be worried about gum disease, and none of them even have anything to do with your brain! If you’re looking to get a checkup or catch up on missed dental appointments, now’s the time to act! Give Bow Trail Dental a call at (403)240-1257 today.