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Whether is there link between oral health and dementia

Although past studies have suggested a link between oral health and dementia, this is the first to pinpoint a specific gum disease bacteria in the brain. Researchers looked at donated brain samples of 10 people without dementia and 10 people with dementia.

They found the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis in the brains of four of those with dementia. This bacteria may play a role in changes in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease, contributing to symptoms including confusion and failing memory.

Everyday activities like eating and tooth brushing, and some dental treatment with dental loupes, 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.” 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.”

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