June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, and in recognition of this today’s post will look at the relationship between chronic periodontitis and subsequent development of dementia.
Periodonitis is very common, but may be preventable with proper dental hygiene. It is defined as inflammation of the gums and supporting structures of the teeth. Periodonitis begins with gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums.
A group of researchers from Korea recently published a study looking at the possible risk chronic periodonitis may play in the development of dementia. This was a retrospective cohort study with a huge number of participants, over 260,000. These subjects were followed from 2005 to 2015. Other health factors were included such as age, alcohol consumption, blood pressure, exercise level, gender, smoking status, among other factors.
At the end of 2015 the study concluded. The researchers found that subjects with chronic periodonitis had a 6% higher risk for dementia, and a 5% higher risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, compared to those without chronic periodonitis.
The authors propose three possible mechanisms by which chronic periodonitis may be related to neurodegenerative processes. First, perhaps bacteria or other pathogens may cross the blood-brain barrier causing an inflammatory response. Second, there may be increased systemic inflammation or thirdly perhaps increased atherosclerotic plaque formation, leading to endothelial damage.
Current medications for dementia only slow progression of the disease, and do not work in all patients. Some patients are unable to tolerate medication side effects. Therefore it is important to identify those risk factors for dementia which are potentially modifiable which in turn could lower one’s risk for development of dementia.
This is a robust study, with a very large number of participants. Also, it may be the first study on this topic to look at concomitant risk factors such as exercise level and smoking status. Given the results, you may want to enlist the help of your dentist and dental hygienist as strategies to prevent dementia.
“Behind every smile there’s teeth.”– Confucius
(Source- Journal of the American Geriatric Society 00:1-6, 2019)
This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.