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Gum disease increases risk of dementia • HealthNews

Periodontitis is one of the most common diseases of the oral cavity. An increased risk of dementia in connection with gum disease has been associated for a long time, but so far there has been no evidence. Researchers at the University of Greifswald have now determined an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease with the help of detailed statistics. An early and consistent treatment of the receding gums therefore seems to be all the more important to prevent serious secondary diseases.

Common disease periodontitis

Periodontitis is a permanent inflammation of the periodontium and is one of the most common chronic diseases worldwide. In Germany alone, over 11 million people are affected by a severe form of periodontitis. If left untreated, this disease can lead to tooth loss and overall health effects. Since the disease is largely painless, it is often recognized or treated too late. The researchers therefore compare periodontitis to an iceberg: the majority of the effects take place in secret.

Statistics helped to achieve success

The influence of dental diseases on general health has been researched in depth for several decades. For example, inflammatory gum disease, from which between 15 and 45 percent of all people in this country suffer, depending on the age group, has already been linked to an increased risk of dangerous heart disease. The researchers at the University Medical Center Greifswald have now found another connection between Alzheimer’s and periodontitis, which has been suspected for a long time.
Overall, however, the suspected connection was difficult to demonstrate: “It is very difficult to carry out methodologically meaningful studies on the effects of periodontitis, a common severe form of gum disease,” as Dr. Christian Schwahn from the Polyclinic for Dental Prosthetics, Geriatric Dentistry and Medical Materials Science reports. Statistical models specially developed for this purpose only recently made such proofs possible.

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Treatment of periodontal disease slows down existing dementia

“For the first time, the connection between the treatment of gum disease and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease was found in a quasi-experimental model of 177 patients treated periodontally in the Greifswald GANI-MED study (Greifswald Approach to Individualized Medicine) and 409 untreated participants from the SHIP study can be analyzed, ”continues Schwahn. Overall, the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and existing periodontitis was rated as moderate to severe. Using MRI data from the participants, the individual measure of the Alzheimer’s-typical loss of brain substance could then be measured. By comparing the various participants, it was shown that the treatment of periodontal disease reduced the loss of brain matter.

Focus on prevention

“These results are remarkable in that the periodontal disease patients were younger than 60 years at the time of the MRI examination and the observation time between the dental treatment and the MRI examination was on average 7.3 years for the patients,” emphasize the co-authors of the study Professor Thomas Kocher and Professor Hans J. Grabe. “Our approach is clearly in the prevention and timely treatment of gum disease, which can be triggered by a large number of germs, in order to prevent such possible consequential damage in advance,” says Kocher.

New approach could be promising

According to the researchers, another approach is currently being explored in an American study. The key germ of periodontal disease, which has migrated into the brain, is combated with medication, which could be very promising for the treatment of the disease: “In this area, too, we will have to rely on observational studies that simulate a controlled clinical study,” sums up Dr. Christian Schwahn. However, a clinical study with a placebo treatment cannot be carried out because this is not possible for ethical and medical reasons in this area – which means that it could take longer before meaningful results are available.

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