According to a recent article from the Huffington Post, chronic gum inflammation, or periodontitis, has been shown to be associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The condition, which happens to be the leading cause of tooth loss, has also been linked with increases in markers of inflammation throughout the body. Chronic periodontitis is also thought to contribute to a decline in cognitive ability.
Researchers from Chung Shan Medical University in Taichung City used data from Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Research Database to examine whether patients age 50 or older with chronic periodontitis had an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Led by Dr. Yu-Chao Chang, they found no overall connection between periodontitis and Alzheimer’s, but individuals who had chronic gum inflammation for 10 or more years were 70% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those without. This link was present even after researchers made adjustments for other factors, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and urban environment.
“Our findings support the notion that infectious diseases associated with low-grade inflammation, such as chronic periodontitis, may play a substantial role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease,” the team concluded. “These findings highlight the need to prevent progression of periodontal disease and promote health care services at the national level.”
Other medical professionals from around the world weighed in on the findings too.
“In fact, it is believed that the association between periodontitis and Alzheimer’s disease may be bi-directional,” said Dr. Yago Leira Feijoo from Universidad de Santiago de Compostela in Spain. “Currently, with the scientific evidence that is available, we cannot be sure if the risk factor is either periodontal disease or Alzheimer’s disease.”
“Because periodontitis is a preventable and treatable disease, periodontal patients should be aware of the potential risks of gum infection and the systemic impact that could have,” Leira Feijoo added.
Dr. Ingar Olsen from the University of Oslo in Norway stated that regardless of the nature of the relationship, obviously the “dental care of old people should not be neglected. Brush your teeth carefully to prevent development of periodontitis.”