Poor dental health and gum disease may be linked to Alzheimer's disease, a new study suggests.
Brains of deceased dementia patients were found to contain signs of porphyromonas gingivalis, the bug responsible for unhealthy gums.
Scientists believe that when the bacteria reach the brain they trigger an immune response that can lead to the death of neurons. The process could help drive the changes that are typical of Alzheimer's disease.
Scientists at the University of Central Lancashire studied brain samples from 10 patients who died with dementia, and 10 others who did not have dementia. The findings are reported in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. More recent work on animals by the team has confirmed that P gingivalis in the mouth finds its way to the brain once gum disease becomes established.
Lead researcher Dr Sim Singhrao said: "Continued visits to dental hygiene professionals throughout one's life may be more important than currently envisaged with inferences for health outside of the mouth only."