Most cases of Parkinson’s disease are considered idiopathic, meaning they lack a clear cause. New findings show that gum disease – or periodontitis – may substantially heighten the risk of developing dementia. Almost half of adults in the UK have a degree of periodontist that is not reversible, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
Parkinson’s disease, which currently afflicts 145,000 people in the UK, is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world.
Symptoms of the disease include involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body, slow movement, stiff and inflexible muscles, among other psychological symptoms.
The condition occurs when the nerve cells in the brain die, causing a sharp dip in dopamine levels.
While dopamine is widely recognised as the chemical messenger that influences feelings of pleasure, it also plays a vital role in regulating the movement of the body.
A study led in South Korea, suggested that gum disease may increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
The researchers wrote: “Oral diseases are prevalent in people with Parkinson’s disease.
“Patients, physicians, and caregivers often neglect the patients’ oral-health needs.
“Increased cooperation from dentists and physicians is needed to ensure optimal screening, treatment, and prevention of periodontitis and Parkinson’s disease.”
Previous studies highlighted a higher prevalence of cavities and tooth loss among patients with Parkinson’s, however, the link between gum disease and the disease had not yet been probed, according to the researchers.
For their analysis, a team at the Catholic University of Korea studied data from 903,063 individuals with periodontitis.
Researchers noted that high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and higher body mass index were prevalent among subjects with gum disease.
Findings also showed that the risk for developing Parkinson’s disease was high among such individuals.
After accounting for all key factors, the results revealed that the prevalence of Parkinson’s was higher among patients with periodontitis.
The team noted that those with mild periodontitis have 7.6 to 9.5 percent higher risk of developing Parkinson’s.
Furthermore, researchers noted that the risk patients suffering both periodontitis and metabolic syndrome, were at even higher risk of Parkinson’s, at 16.7 percent.
Metabolic syndrome is an umbrella term for a combination of high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.
The researchers hope the findings will encourage better hygiene care and plaque control, notably in the form of scaling, a process by which dentists remove plaque above and below the gum line.
They noted: “The protective effects of dental scaling were evaluated, and the results showed that the patients without periodontal inflammatory disease who underwent dental scaling over five consecutive years had a significantly lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease.”
“Moreover, the development of Parkinson’s disease was lower for the people receiving scaling with periodontitis when compared with the participants receiving scaling without periodontitis.”
They concluded that prevention and periodontal diseases may substantially lower the risk for Parkinson’s disease.