Gum health linked to mental health problems

gummouth
Credit: Pixy

Periodontal disease is associated with a wide range of health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and dementia, making the reduced access to dental care during the coronavirus pandemic a significant concern, dentists say.

A new study published [July 29] in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, has added to that body of knowledge. There is a link between stages of periodontal disease, which can ultimately cause tooth and bone loss, and mild cognitive impairment and dementia 20 years later, the study found.

“We looked at people’s dental health over a 20-year period and found that people with the most severe gum disease at the start of our study had about twice the risk for mild cognitive impairment or dementia by the end,” said study author Ryan Demmer, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis.

Related article:  Do bilinguals have a lower risk of developing dementia?
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However, it’s not clear whether periodontal disease actually causes dementia or other health problems. It could be explained by certain bacteria in the mouth — the oral microbiome, Demmer said.

“The oral microbiome is central. My core hypothesis is that bacteria in the mouth that cause periodontal disease, are also a cause of systemic outcomes (cardiovascular disease, dementia etc.),” he said via email.

“We use periodontal measures in many of our studies because they are a surrogate marker of chronic exposure to adverse oral bacteria.”

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