Alzheimer’s starts in the mouth? Gum disease, oral bacteria strongly linked to mind-robbing condition

Researchers from the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine suggest a link between a common bacteria that promotes the progression of periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Jake Jinkun Chen, professor of periodontology and director of the Division of Oral Biology at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, and his colleagues believe that targeting Fusobacterium nucleatum (F. nucleatum) can kill two birds with one stone, slowing the progression of both diseases.

Recently, researchers have found that F. nucleatum is linked to a variety of conditions ranging from premature baby delivery to colorectal cancer. In the case of periodontal disease, the bacteria impacts the gums and jaw. If left untreated, it can result in loose teeth and loss teeth. It can also exacerbate inflammation, which is a symptom of most chronic disease, like Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

In Chen’s latest research, experiments were first done to note the relationship between the bacteria and microglial cells. These are immune cells within the brain that remove damaged neurons and maintain the health of the central nervous system. Mice were used to conduct the experiments, and it was found that F. nucleatum results in abnormal growth of microglial cells.

Due to an increase in these cells, the body seemed to respond by increasing inflammation. Chronic inflammation is considered key in determining neurodegeneration progression in Alzheimer’s disease patients. “Our studies show that F. nucleatum can reduce the memory and thinking skills in mice through certain signal pathways. This is a warning sign to researchers and clinicians alike,” says Chen, in a statement.

Links between this and periodontal disease have been made in the past by researchers, and largely due to inflammation. While this latest researcher doesn’t show that periodontal disease perfectly leads to Alzheimer’s disease, it does worsen symptoms if it’s caused by F. nucleatum and is left untreated.

“In this study, our lab is the first to find that Fusobacterium nucleatum can generate systemic inflammation and even infiltrate nervous system tissues and exacerbate the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease,” adds Chen.

Their lab has also designed a molecule called adipoAI, which is anti-inflammatory and can combat this bacteria. Chen hopes that their work and findings can support the start of clinical trials to measure efficacy. This means that their research has great therapeutic potential for discovering drugs that target exact pathways to mitigate progression of various diseases, especially early-stage Alzheimer’s.

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

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About the Author

Shyla Cadogan

Shyla Cadogan is a DMV-Based Registered Dietitian. She is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park with a degree in Nutrition and Food Science and has published research on food insecurity in Maryland. She holds specialized interests in integrative nutrition, hormone health, and gastrointestinal health.


  1. Does alcohol based mouthwash kill this bacterium? If so, then you have an extremely cheap defense against not only tooth decay, but other debilitating diseases, without needing costly drugs.

    1. The bacteria are found within the gum tissues and deep into the cleft between the teeth and gums.

      Alcohol will kill surface bacteria, but not the others, and not the bacteria that are surrounded by plaque and mucous.

      Brushing removes the surface plaques and bacteria, and toughens the gums making them less permeable.

      Proper brushing technique includes brushing the gums and tongue as well as the teeth.

      1. I use a waterpik with 25% mouthwash thrice weekly. Specifically on my gums and between teeth. My dentists have always commented on my healthy gums.

    2. Beware of anything with fluoride which is neurotoxic.

      There are probiotics for oral health. Worth looking into.

  2. Makes a compelling case why dental coverage should be part of standard health insurance. If someone can obtain routine dental checkups and gum disease prevention, it should have a positive impact on their overall health, not just the health of their teeth.

    1. Health insurance doesn’t exist to provide health insurance.

      It exists to make money for the insurance providers.

      It is in their interest to provide the least amount of coverage for the highest possible price.

      That is true for all for profit medicine.

      1. Vendicar Decarian doesn’t exist to provide value to those Vendicar Decarian works for.

        Vendicar Decarian exists to make money for Vendicar Decarian.

        It is in Vendicar Decarian’s to provide the least amount of effort for the highest possible price.

        That is true for all for profit people.

        1. Wouldn’t it be nice if everything was as simple as Jodeo writes? Anyone with the gall to expect reimbursement for hard work, or for taking on risk to help others, is evil and ‘in it for the money’. And so the people who do NOT start businesses but instead take money from the government– money that comes from businesses and working individuals — are actually the good guys? How twisted… so all ‘for profit people’ are bad, and the under-achievers on the government dole are ‘good’.

          How does a person get to the point of seeing things in that way? Then there is chrisbee, another apparent grifter who hates the idea of profiting from doing the work associated with providing a service. I suspect that in both cases, they receive and expect to receive the benefits of health insurance — including help with the cost of fixing medical problems caused by their own bad behavior — for free. Someone is paying Dodeo’s medical bills, using money provided by people who have the sense to pay premiums that might cover their own bills some day. But Jodeo thinks that anyone providing that service should do it for free, or maybe even at a loss. To Jodeo, life is a gravy train that should just keep on giving.

      2. Oh stop it, health insurance exists for people who don’t want surprise $100k medical bills. Same as any insurance. ‘For profit’ health insurance is better than the alternative, at least in the USA, given what our culture produces. Your motor vehicle department is a good example of a govt run program. So is the IRS. Government healthcare would be a great idea if we were in Switzerland. But we aren’t.

      3. You are implying that we should have Canadian style government health insurance/ I spend half a year every year for 20 years with Canadian snowbirds. Their dental care is horrible and they flock to Mexico for cheap (and mostly good) care. But like any “free” stuff their health care is rationed for everything except life threatening issues. They come to the US for new hips and knees if they have money.

  3. I find this concerning since I was recently diagnosed with gum disease, in spite of the fact that I’ve always been very careful about my oral health. I brush and floss at least twice a day and go to the dentist every 6 months for a cleaning. I’m a non smoker.
    Gum disease isn’t just caused by
    poor oral hygiene, sometimes there are other factors involved.

    1. Brushing and flossing twice a day won’t cut it. It is just after each and every time you eat. When u eat the bacteria eats. If you eat 6 times a day brush and floss 6 times after eating.

      1. Cuts it for me. Great dental checkups and great gums. Thanks for your medical opinion however.

    2. What you need for excellent oral health is betaine hydrochloride taken after each meal. How much? Dosage is dependent upon age and weight. The older you are the more you need. Some where between 3-5 grams per meal. Take enough to stop the plaque from forming

  4. Baloney. And we ALL know it. You keep shooting symptoms. But we all know Alzheimer’s runs in families. And all this is junk science. Over the years we’ve read – drink more coffee, drink less coffee, take this, do that.
    Most of the 9 siblings in my mother’s family died of Alzheimer’s. None of the siblings in my dad’s side did. My dad was sharp till he died at age 87. My sister died last year age 75.
    I apparently am taking after my dad’s side.
    No one could ever practice more efficient and thorough oral hygiene than my mother did. She still got it. Just like the other 8.
    All 6 siblings in my daughter-in-law’s mom’s side either have died of Alzheimer’s or have it right now. None on dad’s side.
    I wish all those $$ were spent actually researching the true science instead of all the wasteful junk science research stuff like this that gets “released” every few weeks/months for whatever profit these guys get.
    Because seriously – we who have Alzheimer’s in our families seriously know this is just more and more baloney.

      1. He’s not wrong… smart person right there. Facts are dead (as is a real education in public institutions), but changing your sex is alive and well. Idiots…

    1. “No one could ever practice more efficient and thorough oral hygiene than my mother did. She still got it.” –

      Yup, and smoking doesn’t cause cancer either.

    2. I am also extremely frustrated about articles like this that don’t appear to take into account the refusal to understand that outliers are not the norm. Every time something comes out about Alz, everyone I know who had an Alz family member just sighs in frustration. “Exercise combats Alz!” My mom went to Jazzercise regularly. “More coffee! Eat healthy! Puzzles! Healthy gums!” My mom drank coffee, lost weight by eating salads for years, loved crosswords, and kept up religiously with dental health. She even had her fillings replaced because of the study that said metal fillings caused Alz.

      But in the end, what she could not control was the fact that her dad had it, and that’s what overwhelmingly the people like her who get it have….a family member(s) with it. Quit chasing the one or two people who have bad gums and focus on what really is the link…GENETICS. That’s where your progress in this crappy disease has always been and will always be.

  5. Chicken and egg – self care is neglected in many neurological conditions; are they forgetting to brush their teeth?

  6. It’s not bacteria that is the sign of Alzheimer’s. It’s the stupid opinions that are coming out of that mouth.

  7. Smartmouth is a relatively new mouthwash on the market. It has two component fluids that mix just before you use it. It puts off Zinc ions which are known to kill and reduce coronavirus. Have no idea if it kills this too but it’s worth a try.

  8. I am eighty-four years old and get very disillusioned when I try to read something which may help me, but find satire, disparaging comments, and such unhelpful remarks that I am forced to give up. I cannot read any more.

  9. Blah blah blah blah blah…study finds. As someone who works in medical peer review I take all of this with a grain of salt. The more you know the less you know and someone will find a theory to debunk your theory. Someone is making $$$ off all this bull but it isnt you or me.

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