In a study published in January 2019 in Science Advances, new evidence emerged that strongly suggests that Alzheimer’s disease may actually be caused by a bacteria commonly associated with advanced gum disease. This thug bug is named Porphyromonas gingivalis, commonly referred to as P. gingivalis.
In this article, we’ll explore the study’s findings, get to know P. gingivalis more, and lay down some simple steps you can do now to keep this thug bug from undermining your whole-body health going forward.
(As a side note, we are so blessed with an incredible community of kind people who are willing to take a moment from their busy day to send us articles and research they think may pertain to our mission! Thank you Laura M. and Alyse S. for sharing this information with us!)
The cause of Alzheimer’s story…
Since 1984, medical researchers have hypothesized that Alzheimer’s may be caused by amyloid, a protein that collects and creates ‘brain plaques’.
After several decades worth of exploration down this rabbit hole, the scientific community has been able to produce little to no solutions to help address Alzheimer’s.
Similar to the (scientifically refuted) ‘cholesterol causes heart disease’ hypothesis that we’re all familiar with, it turns out that the brain produces amyloid, a natural antimicrobial, to protect itself against infectious bacteria. So, like cholesterol, amyloid is ‘on the scene’ to try to help protect against damage.
How P. gingivalis can cause neurodegeneration…
Researchers have found that the thug bug P. gingivalis produces toxic enzymes called gingipains, which cause all sorts of trouble for brain tissue.
This study also found P. gingivalis DNA in the Alzheimer’s brains that they studied.
“When the team gave P. gingivalis gum disease to mice, it led to brain infection, amyloid production, tangles of tau protein, and neural damage in the regions and nerves normally affected by Alzheimer’s. This suggests causation, says Lynch [one of the researchers].”
As you know, P. gingivalis causes gum inflammation in periodontal disease.
Not surprising, this thug bug also causes an inflammatory cascade in any region of the body that it invades.
What makes the mouth so important to this bacterial invasion is the mouth plays a critical role not only as a gateway for introducing P. gingivalis into the body, but also as a ‘safe haven’ for this thug bug to colonize and mount its attack.
Researchers aren’t done unpacking this story, but we think this could be a piece to the preventative puzzle…
The mouth is the gateway to the whole body…
One of the fundamental premises here at OraWellness is that the mouth is the gateway to the whole body.
While a bit obvious, when you stop and think about it, the mouth is the main way we put anything new into our bodies.
Additionally, our mouths provide a unique environment where microbes like P. gingivalis can hide just outside the perimeter of our immune system’s patrolling territory, yet still have access to the body.
The zone in the mouth where we focus the most attention is the gum pocket, the fold of gum tissue that surrounds each of our teeth.
Gum pockets are key spots because inside them, unchecked thug bugs (including P. gingivalis) can quietly colonize and build their numbers while remaining ‘out of bounds’ from the immune system’s alarms or defenses.
Enemy inside the gates…
We’ve always considered gum disease to be a ‘gateway disease’.
Inside the gum pocket, microbes that cause chronic inflammation can build their numbers and then use the tiny blood vessels in our gums to ferry their ‘soldiers’ into the rest of the body.
This is why a central part of our mission here at OraWellness is to educate the world on solutions how to balance your oral flora.
We even discussed this in an expert interview with functional neurologist and friend, Dr Brandon Brock. Here’s a link to “The connection between gum disease, mercury and Alzheimer’s”
The bottom line is this: if we prevent thug bugs like P. gingivalis from colonizing our gum pockets and creating chronic inflammation in our bodies, we will be taking a massive step toward avoiding a whole host of diseases.
If you really want to take control of your oral health but don’t know where to start, here’s a simple first step anyone can take. While the step may sound silly, it’s a huge and very helpful way to begin your journey..
Why researchers may be off base…
The people behind the January 2019 study we’ve referenced are funded by a pharmaceutical company. They are looking for the ‘silver bullet’ (that they can patent and sell to us) to wipe out P. gingivalis.
But, as history has often taught us, it’s important to take a step back and consider the bigger picture.
If we observe nature, we see that everything in life is about balance, a yin and yang.
In our opinion, the goal is not to completely obliterate P. gingivalis from our systems. Research clearly shows that P. gingivalis in low numbers doesn’t cause the inflammatory cascade associated with chronic disease.
Instead, to bring balance, it’s about being a ‘good conductor’ of the symphony of microbes in our mouth. As long as we maintain a healthy microbial balance in the mouth, thug bugs like P. gingivalis won’t get out of hand.
And, as you know from our previous articles like, “4 steps to stop gum disease from causing an autoimmune disease in your life” and “Can some plaques actually help our teeth stay healthy?“, there isn’t just one ‘thug bug’ that’s causing all the ruckus. In fact, there are lots of different thug bugs that are directly associated with gum disease.
And, unfortunately, thug bugs work together to undermine our vitality.
Using what science calls quorum sensing, microbes communicate with one another to determine ‘friend or foe’ and then either fight it out or join arms and work together in their shared mission.
In particular, P. gingivalis likes to work with two other thug bugs, T. denticola and T. forsythia. Dubbed the ‘red complex’, these thug bugs use quorum sensing to team up and cause the damage associated with periodontal disease.
Solutions to stop the damage…
So what can we do to prevent this colonization and/or stop the damage if we already have signs of advancing gum disease?
What if we’ve already received a diagnosis from our dentist about deepening gum pockets?
It’s all about the recurring theme of our resources: being a good conductor of the symphony of microbes in your mouth.
Much of this general strategy is to keep plaques in the mouth thin. As you’ll see, all of these techniques below will focus on keeping plaque biofilms thin to help balance your oral flora.
Learn to brush your teeth to reduce gum disease
We know, you’ve heard this a thousand times from us, but it bears repeating. 🙂
If we consistently disrupt and disorganize P. gingivalis and other thug bugs and prevent them from colonizing in our gum pockets, they simply won’t be able to build the numbers that are needed to wreak havoc in our bodies.
We wrote an article titled, “How To Brush Your Teeth To Reduce Gum Disease” to help you along this path. You may also find help from our videos titled, “How to brush your teeth to reduce gum disease” and “How to Brush Your Teeth to Stop Tooth Decay“.
If there’s one oral hygiene habit that may be even more powerful than brushing for stopping thug bugs, it’s conscious flossing.
Regular flossing has been statistically proven to lower our risk of heart disease (because, as we mentioned earlier, heart disease is another potential ‘downstream consequence’ of gum disease).
And don’t be fooled by any misinformation that may be circulating on how flossing isn’t helpful.
Conscious flossing is a foundational strategy for anyone looking to stop (or prevent) the chronic inflammatory cascade associated with gum disease.
Here’s a link to a helpful video tutorial that shows how to consciously floss your teeth.
(And for you ‘floss haters’, here’s a solution if you really can’t bring yourself to floss.)
Use oral hygiene products specifically designed to balance your oral flora
Rather than the conventional ‘scorched earth’ approach to oral hygiene, products formulated from a holistic mindset will seek to accomplish a few key goals while still honoring the native microbial environment of the mouth.
We touched on some of these key goals earlier, so now, let’s unpack a little more information on keeping biofilms thin and disrupting quorum sensing.
And we can also examine how our HealThy Mouth Blend helps to optimize one’s oral health. (Quick side note, we’re thrilled that we recently got USDA organic certification. Our HealThy Mouth Blend is now the only toothpaste alternative made from 100% certified organic ingredients.)
- Keep plaque biofilms thin
As we’ve mentioned before, much of our job as ‘good conductors’ is to keep plaque biofilms thin.
Research shows that manuka is very effective in thinning biofilms of P. gingivalis through something called ‘adhesion inhibition’.
In other words, manuka oil makes it more difficult for plaque to stick to teeth and gums.
Keeping biofilms thin is an important part of being a good conductor because thin biofilms encourage healthy microbes to thrive in our oral microbiome while simultaneously discouraging anaerobic (low-oxygen-loving) thug bugs.
So, we included–you guessed it 🙂 – manuka oil in our HealThy Mouth Blend to help keep biofilms thin, thanks to its adhesion-inhibiting ability.
- Disrupt quorum sensing
Remember how we discussed above that thug bugs communicate with one another and work together to undermine our health?
Well, another effective strategy to stop P. gingivalis and other thug bugs from working together is to disrupt their ability to communicate with one another.
Think of it as scrambling their radio signals to one another–disrupting quorum sensing is another effective strategy to disorganize thug bugs while still honoring the natural balance of the oral microbiome.
Clove oil, another ingredient in our HealThy Mouth Blend, is very effective at disrupting quorum sensing for P. gingivalis. Also, a compound in clove called ‘eugenol’ helps to down regulate the virulence factor genes of P. gingivalis
Additional support may be necessary
The key to supporting gum pocket health is to disrupt and disorganize thug bugs at the base of the gum pocket.
We encourage you to ask your dentist for a copy of your last gum pocket depth chart, so you know where you stand.
The threshold for healthy gums is 4mm.
And, for gum pockets of 4mm or less, our typical oral hygiene tools can help us to reach the base of gum pockets (for example, swishing can reach a gum pocket depth of 1mm, using the Bass Brushing Technique can help your toothbrush bristles to reach a depth of up to 2mm, and string floss and oral irrigators can reach a depth of up to 4mm).
But what can we do when we have gum pockets that are deeper than 4mm?
That’s when our HealThy Mouth System can help.
It contains all the tools, education and feedback necessary to stop even periodontal disease.
Feel free to check out Susan’s story as well as our blog entry on the positive changes one of our customers was able to achieve in just 42 days.
If you have been diagnosed with periodontal disease, please take a look at the testimonials from HealThy Mouth System customers around the world.
And yes, the HealThy Mouth System does come with a bottle of our HealThy Mouth Blend. 🙂
Speaking of the blend, before we close out this article, let’s cover an FAQ we’ve been hearing more of recently…
“But don’t essential oils damage the oral microbiome?”
Due in large to misinformation being disseminated via the internet, recently we’ve been getting this question more and more.
So, we wrote an article titled, “Are essential oils safe to use in the mouth?” that really takes an in-depth view of research from the person who literally wrote the book on oral microbiology that’s used in dental schools. (Here’s a link to this expert’s textbook on amazon.)
That wraps it up!
We hope this article helps you to better understand how oral microbes can impact our whole-body health, and that we have conscious oral hygiene habits each of us can take to reduce our risks of Alzheimer’s disease and other downstream diseases.
If you’ve benefited from this information, please consider sharing it with those in your network who may also benefit from this holistic perspective.
Helpful, Related Resources:
How to balance your oral flora
The first step of dental self empowerment
4 steps to stop gum disease from causing an autoimmune disease in your life
Can some plaques actually help our teeth to stay healthy?
How to brush your teeth to reduce gum disease
Does flossing really lower my risk of heart disease?
Is flossing actually bad for you?
What to do if you really, really don’t like to floss
How to tell if your oral hygiene products are holistic or not
One test you definitely want to request from your dentist
What 42 days of positive action can accomplish
Are essential oils safe to use in the mouth?
The connection between gum disease, mercury and Alzheimer’s [[expert interview]]
How to brush your teeth to reduce gum disease [video tutorial]
How to brush your teeth to stop tooth decay [video tutorial]
How to floss and NOT damage your gums [video tutorial]
Why is flossing such a critically important oral hygiene habit? [video tutorial]
We may now know the cause of Alzheimer’s – News Scientist
The link between gum disease and cardiovascular disease – Pubmed
Poor periodontal health – a cancer risk? – Pubmed
Periodontal disease and diabetes – a two way street – Pubmed
Periodontal disease and arthritis – Pubmed
Gingivitis and periodontitis as a risk factor for stroke – Pubmed
Association between MS and chronic periodontitis – Pubmed
P gingivalis in Alzheimer’s diseased brains – Pubmed
P gingivalis – major periodontopathogen pathogen overview – Pubmed
A comparison of the antibacterial efficacies of essential oils – Pubmed
Anti quorum sensing activity of 12 essential oils – Pubmed