Recent studies have suggested that chronic periodontitis might contribute to a decline in thinking ability.
Chronic gum inflammation, known as periodontitis, is associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, researchers from Taiwan report.
Chronic periodontitis, a leading cause of tooth loss, is also associated with increases in markers of inflammation throughout the body. Some recent studies have suggested that chronic periodontitis might contribute to a decline in thinking ability, the authors note in Alzheimer's Research and Therapy.
Dr. Yu-Chao Chang’s team 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.
They found no overall link between periodontitis and Alzheimer's, but people who had the chronic gum inflammation for 10 or more years were 70 percent more likely than people without periodontitis to develop Alzheimer's disease.
The link between long-term periodontitis and Alzheimer's was present even after researchers adjusted for other factors that might influence the development of Alzheimer's, 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 study team concludes.
"These findings highlight the need to prevent progression of periodontal disease and promote healthcare services at the national level," they add.
"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 who wasn’t involved in the study. “Currently, with the scientific evidence that is available, we cannot be sure if the risk factor is either periodontal disease or Alzheimer´s disease,” Leira Feijoo said by email.
“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,” he added.
Dr. Ingar Olsen from University of Oslo in Norway, who also wasn’t involved in the study, told Reuters Health, “Dental care of old people should not be neglected.”
“Brush your teeth carefully to prevent development of periodontitis," Olsen added.
Dr. Chang did not respond to a request for comments.