A new South Korean study adds to the growing body of evidence that chronic periodontitis may be a risk factor for dementia.
Periodontitis occurs when an untreated gum infection spreads to the roots of the teeth, causing destruction of the supporting bone and connective tissues. It is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults.
For the study, a research team evaluated data 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 age 40 and older and maintains detailed health records for all enrollees.
The study involved 262,349 subjects (ages 50 and older), all of whom were split into one of two groups: those diagnosed with chronic periodontitis and those without the disease. 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.
Dementia is defined as a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to engage in everyday activities.
The overall findings show that people with chronic periodontitis had a 6 percent greater risk of developing dementia compared to those without periodontitis. This link remained even after accounting for other behavioral factors such as smoking, consuming alcohol, and remaining physically active.
The researchers said that to their knowledge, this study is the first to demonstrate a link between chronic periodontitis and dementia even after taking lifestyle behaviors into account. The researchers suggest that future studies should be conducted to look into whether preventing and treating chronic periodontitis could lead to a reduced risk of dementia.
A 2018 study in Taiwan found that people over the age of 70 who had been living with periodontitis for more than 10 years were 70 percent more likely than those without the condition to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
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.
The new paper is published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Source: American Geriatrics Society