For many years research has shown that gingivitis (gum disease) is linked to a higher risk of heart disease due to the fact that bacteria in the mouth can migrate to the valves in the heart via the circulatory system.
However, recent research published in the medical journal Science Advances has also revealed that the bacteria that cause gingivitis is connected to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
Scientists have previously found that this species of bacteria, called Porphyromonas gingivalis, can move from the mouth to the brain. Once in the brain, the bacteria release enzymes called gingipains that can destroy nerve cells, which in turn can lead to memory loss and eventually Alzheimer's.
In this study, researchers looked for evidence of this process in human brains. They examined the brains of 53 deceased people who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and found high levels of gingipain in almost all of them. They also noted that the amount of gingipain tended to rise over time, which suggests there may be a tipping point when dementia symptoms first begin.
As a result of this research, plans are currently in place to see if certain drugs can block these harmful bacterial enzymes and possibly stop Alzheimer's from developing or at least slow its progression.
However, we may not need to depend upon synthetic drugs to achieve this. In Ayurvedic medicine, the self-care technique of oil pulling has been used for thousands of years to optimise oral health.
Known as gandusha in Ayurveda, oil pulling is a fantastic oral detoxification procedure that’s simply done by swishing a tablespoon of coconut oil (or olive or sesame oil) in your mouth for up to 10-minutes.
Despite being used for millennia, Western research is now showing that coconut oil pulling is one of the best ways to remove bacteria and promote healthy teeth and gums. In fact, it’s been proven to be even more effective than flossing, and it’s one of the best ways to naturally whiten your teeth.
Oil pulling works by cleaning (detoxifying) the oral cavity in a similar way that soap cleans dirty dishes. It literally sucks the dirt (toxins) out of your mouth and creates a clean, antiseptic oral environment that contributes to the proper flow of dental liquid that’s needed to prevent cavities and disease.
However, with specific regards to Alzheimer’s prevention, in clinical research conducted at the Department of Dentistry in Chennai India, oil pulling was proven to significantly reduce the overgrowth of aerobic microorganisms responsible for plaque-induced gingivitis. As such, by reducing one of key causes of gingivitis, we in turn reduce the volume of bacteria entering into the brain and releasing the Alzheimer’s causing gingipain enzymes.
Thus as a self-care technique for potentially preventing a key risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, the time spent oil pulling each morning may be time very well spent indeed.
To effectively oil pull, all you need to do is:
Gently swish 1–2 tablespoons of coconut oil in your mouth and between your teeth for up to 10-minutes, making sure that you don’t swallow any of the oil. (Do this gently so you don’t wear out your jaw and cheeks!)
Spit out the oil and immediately rinse your mouth out with warm water (use salt water for added antimicrobial properties).
Finally, brush your teeth as normal.
Do this for three-five days a week to optimise not only your oral health and hygiene but also your cardiovascular and neurological health too.