Dementia and periodontitis …?
PD Dr. Kristina Bertl, PhD MSc MBA
The principal symptom of dementia is a worsening of cognitive capabilities. This can impact short-term memory, ability to think and/or motor skills, for example, and those affected lose the skills they once had. In 2015, the global prevalence of dementia was estimated to be approximately 36 million people, and the WHO expects the prevalence to double by 2030 and to triple by 2050 (Prince et al. 2013).
Periodontitis has already been identified as a possible risk factor for developing dementia, but some of the studies involved had either small case numbers or methodological weaknesses. Lee et al. (2020) recently published a large-scale retrospective cohort study in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology. They gathered data from approximately 56,000 (!!) patients with periodontitis and compared them with an age- and sex-adjusted group of 56,000 patients without periodontitis. After controlling for potential confounding factors, statistical analysis revealed a significant correlation between dementia and periodontitis.
In detail, the results were as follows:
- At the approximately eight-year follow-up, the rate of new cases (incidence) in the group of patients with periodontitis was significantly higher than that in the control group without periodontitis (5.2 cases compared with 3.0 per 1000 person-years).
- The risk of later developing dementia was significantly higher for both men and women with periodontitis
- The risk of patients with periodontitis also going on to develop dementia increased with age; among 80-year-olds, the risk was up to 4.3 times higher.
This study once again shows us that periodontitis can lead not only to increased tooth loss, but also to a higher risk of diseases that may have serious consequences for those affected. Accordingly, prevention and patient motivation and education should be prioritized in daily dental practice.
- Lee CY, Chang CC, Lin CS, et al. Risk of dementia in patients with periodontitis and related protective factors: A nationwide retrospective cohort study. J Clin Periodontol. 2020; 47:1428–1436.
- Prince M, Bryce R, Albanese E, Wimo A, Ribeiro W, & Ferri CP. The global prevalence of dementia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Alzheimer's & Dementia. 2013; 9:63–75.