Left untreated, gingivitis might develop into periodontitis. Periodontitis is a serious disease of the gums that destroys bone and damages the soft tissues of the mouth. People who have periodontal disease may lose their teeth and suffer from chronic bad breath. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that up to 47.2% of U.S. adults suffer from periodontitis. Recently, researchers in South Korea discovered a link between periodontal disease and the development of dementia. Given the prevalence of periodontal disease, this research has far-reaching implications. Treating periodontitis and getting regular dental care might help you to prevent dementia later in life.

Link found between periodontitis and dementia

The Korean researchers reviewed data from the National Health Insurance Service for 262,349 people who were age 50 and older. The NHIS provides health insurance to all Koreans and collects health information. The researchers compared people with chronic periodontitis to people without gum disease from 2005 to 2015.

Over the 10-year period, the researchers found that people with chronic periodontitis had a 6% higher likelihood of developing dementia than people with healthy mouths. This higher risk persisted regardless of other lifestyle factors like alcohol consumption, smoking, and exercise. The researchers called for future research about whether treating periodontitis might lead to a lower risk of dementia.

What to do

To prevent gum disease, brush your teeth at least twice every day. Make certain to floss each day, and schedule regular visits to your dentist. Poor oral hygiene remains one of the leading risk factors for gingivitis and periodontitis. People who smoke are also likelier to develop periodontal disease. Quitting smoking may reduce your risk of developing the disease.

See your dentist at least once per year for a professional cleaning and a dental checkup. If you have a risk factor for periodontitis, seeing your dentist every six months may be a better choice.

How periodontitis is treated

Both nonsurgical and surgical methods may be used to treat periodontitis. Your dentist may perform root planing and scaling to thoroughly clean your teeth below the gum line. You might also receive a prescription for antibiotics to combat the infection. Advanced periodontitis might require surgery. Some types of surgeries that might be used include the following:

  • Flap surgery to reduce the size of your gum pockets
  • Bone grafts to replace lost bone
  • Soft tissue grafts to replace damaged gum tissue
  • Guided regeneration of tissues to allow new healthy tissues to grow

Even if you currently have a healthy mouth, preventing gingivitis and periodontitis is important to your health. Regular dental care might help to prevent you from developing a number of other diseases, including dementia.

Source: (c) Ingo Bartussek and imtmphoto - Adobe Stock