Gum Disease Study: Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease Due to Periodontitis?

A research team from the University of Greifswald came to a worrying result. In a study they discovered a connection between periodontitis and the onset of dementia. Those with chronic gum disease appeared to be at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Periodontitis (colloquially: parodontosis) is a permanent inflammation of the periodontium. After tooth decay, periodontitis is the second most common oral disease worldwide.

177 test persons who suffered from the onset of dementia received dental treatment for years and their brain activity was measured in an MRI. Result: a periodontal treatment reduced the incipient dementia. The researchers called the association “moderate to strong”. The study results were published in the specialist magazine “Alzheimer’s & Dementia”.

Bacterium migrates to the brain

The research approach is not entirely new. A team led by American Alzheimer’s researcher Stephen Dominy had already discovered similar relationships in 2019. The culprit is said to be the bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis be. Together with other bacteria, it causes permanent periodontal disease in the mouth. And from there it travels to the brain via blood vessels, according to the researchers.

The bacterium had taken root in the brains of deceased Alzheimer’s patients. However, it is still unclear whether this bacterium alone is responsible for the outbreak of Alzheimer’s disease. An ongoing study from the US is investigating whether Porphyromonas gingivalis can be stopped with medication.

Good oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist

Conclusion of the study director: not to take periodontitis lightly and to prevent it at an early stage, for example with good oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist. “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,” said study doctor Prof. Thomas Kocher.