Summary: People with chronic periodontitis have a 6% increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Source: American Geriatrics Society
Gum disease (gingivitis) that goes untreated can become periodontitis. When this happens, the infection that affected your gums causes the loss in the bone that supports your teeth. Periodontitis is the main cause of tooth loss in adults. Interestingly, periodontitis is also a risk factor for developing dementia, one of the leading causes of disability in older adults. A United Nations forecast estimates that 1 in 85 individuals will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia, by the year 2050. Reducing the risk factors that lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease could potentially lower older adults’ chances of developing those conditions.
Recently, researchers in South Korea studied the connection between chronic periodontitis and dementia. They published their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
The research team examined information from the National Health Insurance Service-Health Screening Cohort (NHIS-HEALS). In South Korea, the NHIS provides mandatory health insurance covering nearly all forms of health care for all Korean citizens. The agency also provides health screening examinations twice a year for all enrollees aged 40 years or older and maintains detailed health records for all enrollees.
The researchers looked at health information from 262,349 people aged 50 or older. All of the participants were grouped either as being healthy (meaning they had no chronic periodontitis) or as having been diagnosed with chronic periodontitis. The researchers followed the participants from January 1, 2005, until they were diagnosed with dementia, died, or until the end of December 2015, whichever came first.
The researchers learned that people with chronic periodontitis had a 6 percent higher risk for dementia than did people without periodontitis. This connection was true despite behaviors such as smoking, consuming alcohol, and remaining physically active. The researchers said that to their knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate that chronic periodontitis could be linked to a higher risk for dementia even after taking lifestyle behaviors into account.
The researchers suggested that future studies be conducted to investigate whether preventing and treating chronic periodontitis could lead to a reduced risk of dementia.
Association of Chronic Periodontitis on Alzheimer’s Disease or Vascular Dementia
OBJECTIVES Although chronic periodontitis has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease, the effect of chronic periodontitis on vascular dementia as well as the role of lifestyle behaviors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and physical activity in this association are still unclear.
PARTICIPANTS The study population was derived from the Korean National Health Insurance Service‐Health Screening Cohort. Among 262 349 participants, diagnosis of chronic periodontitis was determined during 2003‐2004.
MEASUREMENTS Starting from 2005, participants were followed up for overall dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and vascular dementia until 2015. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to determine the adjusted hazard ratios (aHRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of dementia according to chronic periodontitis.
RESULTS Compared with nonchronic periodontitis participants, chronic periodontitis patients had elevated risk for overall dementia (aHR = 1.06; 95% CI = 1.01‐1.11) and Alzheimer’s disease (aHR = 1.05; 95% CI = 1.00‐1.11). There was a tendency toward increased vascular dementia risk among chronic periodontitis patients (aHR = 1.10; 95% CI = 0.98‐1.22). The risk‐increasing effect of chronic periodontitis on dementia tended to be stronger among participants with healthy lifestyle behaviors including never‐smokers and those who exercised and did not consume alcohol.
CONCLUSION Chronic periodontitis may be associated with a higher risk of developing dementia. Future studies that investigate whether preventing chronic periodontitis may lead to reduced risk of dementia are needed.