Gum disease known as ‘periodontitis’ has previously been linked to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
New research has now added to this finding by suggesting that long-term chronic periodontitis can be associated with a 70% increase in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Let’s go back a step and understand what we currently know.
Previous findings published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia in 2012 noted that elevated antibodies to periodontal disease bacteria were linked to participants who went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease in later life, thus concluding a link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Last year, a study of sixty participants with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease was published in the journal PLOSone. While this study couldn’t link periodontitis to Alzheimer’s disease, it did find that those participants with more severe gum disease had a faster rate of cognitive decline, again linking the two diseases.
So, what does this new study tell us?
Published in the Journal Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy, this retrospective study assessed the medical records of more than 27,000 participants (between 1997 and 2004). 9291 of the participants were known to have gum disease and 18,672 did not, but were matched to the cohort based on age, gender, education, etc, so comparisons could be made.
After assessing all the data, the researchers actually found no overall link between periodontitis and Alzheimer’s disease, but what they did find was those participants who had chronic periodontitis for 10 or more years had a 1.7 fold increased risk (that’s 70%) of developing Alzheimer’s disease, compared to those participants who did not have chronic periodontitis.
Does cause equal effect though? Well, no, the current research doesn’t suggest that gum disease equals Alzheimer’s disease. The research simply provides some evidence that the two could be linked, and the more severe the gum disease, the greater the link.
The good news is gum disease is preventable and treatable, and good gum health is always something that should be promoted. While the researchers are confident in their findings, they do wish to undertake more research to understand more between the two diseases.
Learn more about dental care and dementia here