BERGEN, Norway — Brushing your teeth twice a day will do more than just clean your teeth, it may also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, a new study finds.
Researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway say that the bacteria that causes the gum disease gingivitis — P. gingivalis — was found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and is believed to significantly raise one’s odds of developing the condition. Enzymes produced by the bacteria, known as gingipains, destroy nerve cells in the brain and cause memory loss, before turning into Alzheimer’s, the authors say.
“We discovered DNA-based proof that the bacteria causing gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain,” says study co-author Piotr Mydel, a researcher from the Department of Clinical Science at the university, in a statement.
Mydel and his team say their study is the first to produce this evidence. For their study, they recruited 53 people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and found the bacteria in the brains of 96% of participants. Though the bacteria doesn’t cause Alzheimer’s by itself, researchers say that it plays a major role in its development and may also cause it to progress faster.
Mydel suggests brushing and flossing every day and scheduling regular visits to the dentist in order to prevent the bacteria from growing. He says that people with gingivitis and a family history of Alzheimer’s should take extra care of their oral hygiene.
The team is also working on a drug that could potentially block the enzymes from the bacteria, thus helping to prevent Alzheimer’s. The drug is set to be tested later this year.
The study is published in the journal Scientific Advances.