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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Gingivitis may be linked to Alzheimer’s, according to study

There may be more incentive than just fresh breath to keep teeth clean after a recent study showed that dental bacteria may lead to brain degeneration.

Dr. Lakshmyya Kesavalu, an associate professor in the College of Dentistry department of periodontology, worked with researchers from the University of Central Lancashire and The Blizard Institute in the United Kingdom on the project.

Together, they found oral bacteria was present in four out of 10 Alzheimer’s disease brain samples, while none were found in the brains of those without Alzheimer’s disease, Kesavalu said. He has been working on the project for three years and said the human mouth contains more than 700 different types of bacteria.

“If you want to prevent bacteria from going into the blood and brain, cut down on sugary foods and smoke,” he said.

There are three known types of Alzheimer’s disease: early-onset, late-onset and familial Alzheimer’s disease, which involves genetics.

However, the bacteria mostly affects those who have late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Kesavalu said.

Dr. Timothy Millward, a dentist at University Family Dentistry, said he was unaware of the research that had been done, but that it makes sense there is a correlation.

“Oral bacteria are actually quite common,” he said. “The mouth is basically a petri dish. It’s got a lot of bacteria that are present in it all the time.”

Millward said the most common ways of getting bacteria are through gum disease, which can be prevented by flossing and brushing, and from family history. Some patients can keep the utmost care of their teeth but still are unable to avoid bacteria because of genetic history.

“(Bacteria) are also doing a lot of collateral damage,” he said. “That collateral damage can affect the brain, other arteries and organs.”

A version of this story ran on page 8 on 10/7/2013 under the headline "Gingivitis may be linked to Alzheimer’s, according to study"

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