Periodontitis, a cause of Alzheimer’s disease?

Many scientific studies have shown in recent years that there is a close relationship between Alzheimer’s disease and some peripheral diseases such as periodontitis. More specifically, periodontal bacteria could be involved in the etiology of Alzheimer’s disease.
In various clinical investigations, Porphyromonas gingivalis, a common pathogen in chronic periodontal disease, has been identified in the brains of patients with dementia. In addition, 90% of brains affected by Alzheimer’s have toxic enzymes, known as gingipains, related to periodontitis.
Although this is not the first time that these two pathologies have been linked, it has been shown that brain involvement by periodontal bacteria is not the result of poor dental care after the onset of dementia. On the contrary, scientific research has shown that the affectation in the brain responds to an early event that can be associated with periodontitis before the onset of cognitive impairment. In other words, infectious agents have been implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
On the other hand, a bidirectional relationship between periodontitis and neurodegenerative diseases has been referred to for years. In other words, just as the bacteria associated with periodontal disease could have an influence on Alzheimer’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease has consequences on oral health, because progressive cognitive deterioration limits hygiene habits.

Alzheimer’s and periodontitis, two very common diseases

The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease is currently between 4 and 9% in Spain. This prevalence doubles every five years after the age of 65. In other words, dementia has a great impact on the population, with age being the most relevant risk factor.
On the other hand, periodontitis is a disease caused by bacteria that affect the supporting tissues of the tooth and causes, in many cases, the loss of the tooth. Like Alzheimer’s disease, it is a disease with a high incidence, reaching over 65% of the population over 55 years of age.

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The importance of oral hygiene

This evidence of the relationship between both pathologies makes us aware of the priority role of oral hygiene, since the prevention of periodontal diseases could influence the decrease in the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.
Periodontal diseases in an advanced stage, such as periodontitis, have important consequences on patients. For this reason it is important to detect early the development of the disease, respecting the annual check-ups to a dental specialist and maintaining proper hygiene.