Having missing teeth and gum disease at an early age may be linked to an increased risk of getting Alzheimer's disease when you are older, according to new research.
The study was presented a recent major conference on dementia held in Washington DC.
It examined lifestyle factors of more than 100 pairs of identical twins. All of the pairs included one twin who had developed dementia and one who had not.
Because identical twins are genetically indistinguishable, the study involved only risk factors that could be modified to help protect against dementia.
It was discovered that twins who had severe periodontal disease before they were 35 years of age had a five-fold increase in risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
The lead author of the study, Dr Margaret Gatz, said missing teeth and gum disease may be a signpost for chronic exposure to disease that provokes an inflammatory response.
Chronic inflammation can damage tissue, including the brain, and this may contribute to the development of dementia,according to the Los Angeles Times.