The Association Between Periodontitis and Cognitive Impairment in Adults: What Parents Need To Know

The Association Between Periodontitis and Cognitive Impairment in Adults: What Parents Need To Know

It is just as important for parents to continue to maintain positive oral health as they get older, not only to lead by example, but also because many neurological studies are now showing that Dementia and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) may be linked to periodontal disease, specifically the type of gum damage that results in tooth loss.

Researchers discovered one study in particular had indicated that approximately 19% of the participants who were compromised with varying degrees of gum disease, and were followed over the course of 20 years, had developed dementia.

What does that mean for the overall hypothesis? Good gums = good mind.

“Periodontal disease was modestly associated with incident MCI and dementia in a community-based cohort,” wrote the group, led by Ryan Demmer, PhD, from the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota – School of Public Health.

As our experts already knew, there is an existing key association between oral health and overall health. These findings not only appear to support that, but in fact sustain and even strengthen the foundation of our understanding regarding oral health.

Previously reviewed data has presented that those with missing teeth may be more of a risk factor for progressive dementia. The quantity of teeth missing also contributed to the likelihood of advancing the disease.

Additional advances in the information have also suggested that poor oral hygiene is associated with pneumonia among seniors, specifically targeting those who have been diagnosed with dementia. Periodontal disease bacteria have shown signs of infecting both the lungs and the brain, particularly Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common type of dementia and deterioration of brain function.

Dementia and MCI outcomes were assessed following a baseline periodontal examination to further explore these connections.

Beginning in 1996, a community of participants in the study were followed through 2016. This study was funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, where approximately 8,300 individuals with an average age of 63 were enrolled who were not diagnosed with dementia at the time. Each participant underwent complete periodontal exams, including the measurement of gum probing depth, bleeding and recession. Participants where then grouped together based on the severity of damage to their gum tissue- so basically, they were divided by the number of teeth lost- including those with implants, and the extent of any visible gum disease.

  • The initial assessment highlighted about 22% had no gum disease and 12% had mild gum disease.
  • Approximately 19% experienced some or severe tooth loss, 20% had no teeth, and the remaining had severe gum inflammation, disease in their molars, and severe gum disease, the researchers found.

After two decades of analyzing and evaluation, 4,559 people have been assessed by the end of the 20 years. About 1,600 of the participants, or approximately 19% of the 8,300 who were involved from the beginning had developed dementia. The result reflects the equivalent of 11.8 cases per every 1,000 person-years.

Demmer and colleagues had found:

  • Among those with healthy gums and all their teeth, 14% developed dementia, compared with 23% of those with no teeth.
  • In addition, approximately 18% of those with mild gum disease and 22% with severe gum disease developed dementia.

However, the study did have its variables and limitations. For instance, the primary theories linking periodontal disease to dementia centrally involving adverse oral microbial exposures. There had been no direct assessments of the patients’ oral microbiota that were available to test more refined hypotheses and conclusions.

Severe periodontitis and tooth loss appear to be connected with a modestly enhanced dementia risk. Further studies are scheduled to be underway and completed so that professionals and experts will have a better understanding of the correlation. Future information will be able to justify the conceivable role of oral microbiota in explaining this relationship and the potential for anti-infective periodontal interventions to prevent cognitive decline.

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