Keeping our teeth and gums healthy might help us avoid more than dreaded cavities and other unpleasant dental work. According to a new study, our gums could also be the key to warding off Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers from the NYU College of Dentistry and Weill Cornell Medicine recently published findings after observing the dental health of adults over the age 65. They specifically looked at the balance between good and bad bacteria that naturally exist in our mouths.
The results showed that those with a higher amount of the bad bacteria were also more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers claim they found a significant biomarker for the condition known as amyloid beta in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in those individuals. This led them to conclude that a healthy oral microbiome could be essential in warding off Alzheimer’s disease.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study showing an association between the imbalanced bacterial community found under the gumline and a CSF biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease in cognitively normal older adults,” lead author Angela Kamer, DDS, PhD, explained in the press release. “The mouth is home to both harmful bacteria that promote inflammation and healthy, protective bacteria. We found that having evidence for brain amyloid was associated with increased harmful and decreased beneficial bacteria.”
The study cites the CDC’s estimate that 70 percent of adults over 65 suffer from periodontal disease, which is the chronic and systemic inflammation that creates larger pockets between the gums and teeth where the bad bacteria can grow. Considering that is also the average age of Alzheimer’s diagnosis, this link makes a lot of sense.
Researchers are looking into whether things like deep cleanings of the gums can help prevent this imbalance from occurring, but it’s clear that focusing on healthy habits like daily brushing and flossing, plus maintaining regular visits to the dentist, are even more important than we already knew.