Periodontal Pathogens and Their Links to Neuroinflammation and Neurodegeneration

Microorganisms. 2023 Jul 18;11(7):1832. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms11071832.


Pathogens that play a role in the development and progression of periodontitis have gained significant attention due to their implications in the onset of various systemic diseases. Periodontitis is characterized as an inflammatory disease of the gingival tissue that is mainly caused by bacterial pathogens. Among them, Porphyromonas gingivalis, Treponema denticola, Fusobacterium nucleatum, Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, and Tannerella forsythia are regarded as the main periodontal pathogens. These pathogens elicit the release of cytokines, which in combination with their virulence factors induce chronic systemic inflammation and subsequently impact neural function while also altering the permeability of the blood-brain barrier. The primary objective of this review is to summarize the existing information regarding periodontal pathogens, their virulence factors, and their potential association with neuroinflammation and neurodegenerative diseases. We systematically reviewed longitudinal studies that investigated the association between periodontal disease and the onset of neurodegenerative disorders. Out of the 24 studies examined, 20 showed some degree of positive correlation between periodontal disease and neurodegenerative disorders, with studies focusing on cognitive function demonstrating the most robust effects. Therefore, periodontal pathogens might represent an exciting new approach to develop novel preventive treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.

Keywords: neurodegeneration; neuroinflammation; periodontal pathogens.

Publication types

  • Review

Grants and funding

This research was funded by the University of Rijeka, grant numbers uniri-prirod-18-302 to Ž.M. and uniri-biomed-18-17 to I.G.