A recent study by researchers at the Chung Shan Medical University in Taichung, Taiwan, has revealed that patients with the chronic gum disease periodontitis are at a 70 percent higher risk of developing dementia than those with healthy gums.

The study, which was published in the journal Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy, studied 28,000 people, 9,300 of whom had recently been diagnosed with chronic periodontitis. The findings revealed that of the 9,300 patients with chronic periodontitis, 115 developed dementia, while 208 people from the larger group of 18,700 people who did not have periodontal disease developed dementia.

The study also revealed that patients with chronic periodontitis were more likely to have high blood pressure, depression and other serious illnesses.

Dr. Stephen Hill of Allen, Texas, believes the link between dementia and periodontitis could be caused by a number of factors.

"The most obvious conclusion is that the inflammation of gum disease is somehow triggering dementia," Hill says. "A popular theory is that an immune reaction from the inflammation can make its way to the brain and cause dementia. But it could also be that people who allow their periodontal disease to become this serious are failing to take care of their overall health as well."

While more studies on the connection between dementia and periodontal disease still need to be conducted, the findings so far should encourage patients to take proper care of their oral health to minimize risks.

"Even though we don’t know exactly why dementia rates increase with poor oral health or how to control it, what you can control is taking care of your teeth now to lower your risks of tooth decay, periodontal disease and, yes, even dementia," Hill says.