Latest Oral Health News
By Tim Locke
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Sheena Meredith, MD
Everyday activities like eating and tooth brushing, and some dental treatment, could allow the bacteria to enter the brain. "We are working on the theory that when the brain is repeatedly exposed to bacteria and/or debris from our gums, subsequent immune responses may lead to nerve cell death and possibly memory loss," says Sim Singhrao, PhD, a senior research fellow at the university.
This could mean that visits to the dentist could be vital for brain health, she says.
"The future of the research aims to discover if P. gingivalis can be used as a marker, via a simple blood test, to predict the development of Alzheimer's disease in at-risk patients."
More Research Needed
For now, "it remains to be proven whether poor dental hygiene can lead to dementia in healthy people," says St John Crean, dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry. "It is also likely that these bacteria could make the existing disease condition worse."
Reacting to the findings, Alison Cook, director of external affairs at the U.K.'s Alzheimer's Society, said: "There have been a number of studies looking at the link between dementia and inflammation caused by factors including poor dental health, but this is not yet fully understood. This small study suggests that we need more research into this important area."
Also reacting to the study, Simon Ridley, PhD, head of research at Alzheimer's Research U.K., said: "We don't know whether the presence of these bacteria in the brain contributes to the disease, and further research will be needed to investigate this. It is possible that reduced oral hygiene, and therefore P. gingivalis infection, could be a consequence of later-stage Alzheimer's, rather than a cause.
"Other studies have suggested that infections, including oral infections, could be linked to Alzheimer's, and there is ongoing research in this area."
He said it will be important for future studies to consider looking back at dental records, to match these with oral hygiene during a person's life.
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