Dementia is the name given to a group of symptoms linked to an ongoing decline in brain function. Scientists have now discovered a possible link between a person’s gums and their risk of developing the condition.
Gum disease is also known as gingivitis in its mild form and occurs when bacteria accumulates in tooth plaque, causing inflammation, receding gums and bleeding.
If the disease progresses to the more serious form, periodontitis could develop which means tooth loss or abscesses.
Bacteria that cause gum disease have been implicated as a cause of dementia according to a new study.
Researchers in the US have linked gum disease with an increased risk of dementia. The scientific journal Neurology published the findings today.
Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Previous research has found bacteria associated with gum disease in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s but it remains unclear if it plays any role in the development of the disease.
“In this study, scientists looked at people with gum disease who went on to develop dementia and compared them against those with no issues with their teeth.
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“They found those with severe gum disease had a slightly increased risk of developing memory problems, but this link does not mean gum disease is a cause of dementia.
“Dementia is complex with strong evidence indicating that factors other than gum disease are also central to the development of the condition.
“However, maintaining good dental health is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout your life.
“With one in three people born today expected to develop dementia in their lifetime, now is the time to see further investment from the government in dementia research to change this picture.
“By understanding any potential risk factors underlying dementia, we stand a greater chance of being able to reduce the number of people developing the condition.”
Medical News Today said: “Using data from an extensive national health insurance screening program, investigators from Seoul National University in South Korea examined the relationship between chronic periodontitis and dementia.
“In a paper that now features in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the researchers describe how they found a modest link between severe gum disease and dementia, which is consistent with some previous studies.
“The researchers also point out that their ‘retrospective cohort study’ is likely the first to establish that lifestyle factors, such as alcohol consumption, smoking, and exercise, did not appear to have any effect on the connection.”
Gum disease is very common and, according to the UK’s National Service, most adults have gum disease to some extent and clearly will have Alzheimer’s because of it.
There are still many scientists and researchers who don’t understand, however, it could be a question of how much bacteria is present in a person’s mouth, or how good the body is at dealing with them.
It is still wise though to practice good hygiene and brush your teeth at least twice a day and regularly flossing in between teeth.
If you have noticed bleeding and painful gums, speak to your dentist about the best methods to reduce this.
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