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Deter Alzheimer's: Brush and Floss!

For the past twenty years various epidemiologic studies have shown that a potential link exists between periodontal disease (poor oral hygiene) and cardiovascular disease. Both processes, decades in the making, are associated with chronic inflammation. But good dental hygiene not only prevents tooth decay, gum disease, and perhaps atherosclerosis, recently investigators at the University of Bergen, Norway have uncovered a connection between gum disease (gingivitis) and Alzheimer’s disease. Bacteria causing gingivitis (Porphyromonas gingivalis) can move from the mouth to the brain and the bacteria produce a protein that destroys nerve cells in the brain, which in turn leads to progressive memory loss and eventually, Alzheimer´s.

Researcher and spokesperson Piotr Mydel at Broegelmanns Research Laboratory, Department of Clinical Science, University of Bergen notes that the bacteria are not causing Alzheimer´s alone, but the presence of these bacteria raises the risk for developing the disease substantially and is also implicated in a more rapid progression of the disease.

There is good news. This study suggests that there are some things one can do to deter or postpone Alzheimer´s: frequent brushing of the teeth, daily flossing, regular dental checks and professional cleaning. In short, excellent oral hygiene may retard this common form of dementia.

The gingivitis-causing bacteria can move from the mouth to the brain where the harmful enzymes they excrete can destroy the nerve cells. Now, for the first time, the Bergen research team has DNA-evidence for this process from human brains. The team examined 53 persons with Alzheimer´s and discovered the enzyme in 96 per cent of the cases. Based upon this discovery, the Norwegian investigators have developed a drug that blocks the harmful enzymes from the bacteria, postponing the development of Alzheimer´s and initial testing of the new agent are slated for later this year.

Journal Reference:

Stephen S. Dominy, Casey Lynch, Florian Ermini, Malgorzata Benedyk, Agata Marczyk, Andrei Konradi, Mai Nguyen, Ursula Haditsch, Debasish Raha, Christina Griffin, Leslie J. Holsinger, Shirin Arastu-Kapur, Samer Kaba, Alexander Lee, Mark I. Ryder, Barbara Potempa, Piotr Mydel, Annelie Hellvard, Karina Adamowicz, Hatice Hasturk, Glenn D. Walker, Eric C. Reynolds, Richard L. M. Faull, Maurice A. Curtis, Mike Dragunow, Jan Potempa. Porphyromonas gingivalis in Alzheimer’s disease brains: Evidence for disease causation and treatment with small-molecule inhibitors. Science Advances, 2019; 5 (1): eaau3333 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau3333

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