Periodontal disease, more commonly known as gum disease, is a growing concern in the medical community, as evidence of potential health risks continues to accumulate. We often hear about the connection to heart disease, however it is just one of many. A connection to Alzheimer’s disease had long been suspected, but was not studied extensively until recent years.
The New York University conducted a groundbreaking study in 2010, in which two decades of data was examined. Although they concluded there was a link, the number of individuals studied was less than 200. Three years later, a team of researchers from University of Central Lancashire expanded on the research, comparing brain samples from individuals with Alzheimer’s to those who didn’t have the condition. They discovered the presence of a specific bacteria in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, which was not found in other brain tissue. The bacteria, Porphyromonas gingivalis, is typically associated with periodontal disease. A more recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease confirmed that certain periodontal bacteria are capable of traveling to the brain.
Researchers continue to study this and many other conditions that may be associated with gum disease. Although there is still much to be learned, we know that the importance of great oral health extends far beyond the appearance of your smile.