Scientists have discovered a link between Alzheimer's disease and poor gum health.
A bacterium commonly associated with chronic gum disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis (Pg), appears to play a role in driving the degenerative disease of the brain, researchers have found.
The study, published in Science Advances, adds to earlier findings that Pg is often found in the brains of deceased people with Alzheimer's disease.
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Tests on mice confirmed the bacterium could travel from the mouth to the brain. And the study found that the toxic protein the bacterium secretes, gingipain, often destroys brain neurons.
"The findings of this study offer evidence that [Pg] and gingipains in the brain play a central role in the pathogenesis [development] of [Alzheimer's disease]," the study authors said.
Researchers say they're developing a new drug that could form the basis of human treatment. They said they plan to test it in humans with mild to moderate Alzheimer's in a clinical trial later this year.
It's not the first time gum disease has been linked to the degenerative brain disease. A study published by PLOS ONE in 2016 linked gum disease to an increased rate of cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer's.
But there are other theories. Another study last year linked memory loss to sugar consumption, while a study published in June said carrying the herpes virus may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
Periodontitis, or gum disease, is caused by an infection that destroys the bone surrounding and supporting your teeth. Symptoms often include bad breath, receding gums and loose teeth.
Smoking is considered a big risk factor associated with the development of gum disease.