A new study from the University of Central Lancashire  (UCLan) School of Medicine and Dentistry suggests- poor dental health and gum disease may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease 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.

The research, which has received international collaboration, and led by Professor St John Crean and Dr. Sim Singhrao from UCLan, examined brain samples donated by 10 patients without dementia and 10 patients suffering from dementia. The research demonstrated the presence of products from Porphyromonas gingivalis in brains from patients suffering from dementia.

Porphyromonas gingivalis is found in the oral cavity, major causative agent of chronic periodontitis. Chronic periodontitis is a common disease of the oral cavity consisting of chronic inflammation of the periodontal tissues caused by accumulation of profuse amounts of dental plaque.

James Loye comments, “This is an incredible discovery for both mental health and oral health. In terms of modern dentistry, this specific finding may provide greater acceptance that improved regular hygiene can help reduce a person’s risk of developing many significant health problems.

Professor St. john Crean, Dean, School of Medicine & Dentistry said:

“Whereas previous studies have indicated a link between dementia and other bacteria and viruses such as the herpes simplex virus type I, this new research indicates a possible association between gum disease and individuals who may be susceptible to developing Alzheimer’s disease, if exposed to the appropriate trigger! Research currently underway at UCLan is playing an active role in exploring this link, but it remains to be proven whether poor dental hygiene can lead to dementia in healthy people, which obviously could have significant implications for the population as a whole. 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.

Dr. Sim Singhrao, PhD, a senior research fellow at the university says:

“This could mean that visits to the dentist could be vital for brain health.”

Dr. Andrea Stevens is a cosmetic and family dentist in practice in Kanata, Ontario. If you have dental questions, you can call her at 613-271-7091 or visit her at kanatacosmeticdentist.com Please also feel free to leave comments or questions below, and Dr. Stevens will be happy to answer!