Periodontitis is the later stage of gum disease, an inflammatory condition largely caused by particular strains of bacteria found in the mouth. While there is a fair amount of promising work related to destroying or sabotaging the disease-causing mechanisms of those bacterial species, nothing has yet made the leap to earnest clinical development. It is thought, based on epidemiological data showing an association with mortality, and on a reasonable examination of the mechanisms involved, that periodontitis can spread inflammatory signaling elsewhere in the body, particularly to the heart and the brain, and thereby accelerate the progession of age-related conditions. The research here, however, using study data for a large number of patients, shows only a modest effect on the incidence of dementia due to the presence of periodontitis.
Gum disease (gingivitis) that goes untreated can become periodontitis. When this happens, the infection that affected your gums causes 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 for disability in older adults. Recently, researchers in South Korea studied the connection between chronic periodontitis and dementia. 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.