The health benefits of proper dental hygiene cannot be over-emphasized. From having minty fresh breath at all times to reduced risk of tooth decay and now, according to a new study, having a healthy, fully functional brain. Researchers from the University of Plymouth have found that oral microbes can lead to the development of brain abscesses. 

Brain abscesses, although rare, remain a serious life-threatening condition that requires utmost attention. According to experts, brain abscesses can arise from infections of structures considered contagious—structures such as the ear, the sinuses, and the oral cavity. 

According to Dr. Holly Roy, lead author and clinical researcher for the National Institute for Health and Care Research in Neuroscience at the University of Plymouth, orally occurring bacteria continue to be found in brain abscesses of unknown origin necessitating the need for studies like these and also for proper dental hygiene. 

“It highlights the importance of using more sensitive techniques to assess the oral cavity as a potential bacterial source in brain abscess patients. It also highlights the importance of improving dental care and oral hygiene more generally.”

The study carried out by clinical researchers at the University of Plymouth and University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust and published in the Journal of Dentistry was aimed at reviewing single centers of brain abscesses and identifying the presence of micro-organisms consistent with sources of oral infection in brain abscess cultures.

Study Methodology

Medical data was gathered from 87 patients (34 males and 53 females) with an average of fifty-five years admitted on the account of brain abscesses. Samples were obtained from each patient and cultured according to UK Standards of Microbiology Investigations (UK-SMI). 

The patients were divided into two groups, one where the source of bacterial infection had been identified (n=35) and one where no source of bacterial infection had been identified (n=52). Microbes in cultures obtained from both groups were then examined for bacteria commonly encountered in oral and dental infections.

Results

The result from the study indicated that twenty-nine out of thirty-five individuals in the NSI groups had oral bacteria-linked brain abscesses, three times more than the ISI groups indicating a higher prevalence in the NSI group.

Brain abscesses from the NSI groups also recorded higher cases of Streptococcus anginosus, a common infectious agent known to cause dental abscesses, associated with pharyngitis, bacteremia, as well as brain, liver, and lung infections. 

In conclusion, findings from the study confirm oral bacteria as a likely source of infection particularly in cases where no obvious cause of infection has been identified. It also further established previous propositions made by previous studies that oral infections can spread to the brain via blood vessels and connective tissues. 

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