Gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease

A new study has found a link between gum disease and greater rates of cognitive decline in people with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Periodontitis (gum disease) is common in older people and may become more common in Alzheimer’s disease because of a reduced ability to take care of oral hygiene as the disease progresses.

How does gum disease affect the brain?

Higher levels of antibodies to periodontal bacteria are associated with an increase in levels of inflammatory molecules elsewhere in the body, which in turn has been linked to greater rates of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease in previous studies.

The study

“These are very interesting results which build on previous work we have done that shows that chronic inflammatory conditions have a detrimental effect on disease progression in people with Alzheimer’s disease…” –  Professor Clive Holmes

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Led by the University of Southampton and King’s College London, 59 participants with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s Disease were cognitively assessed and a blood sample was taken to measure inflammatory markers in their blood.

The participants’ dental health was assessed by a dental hygienist who was blind to cognitive outcomes. The majority of participants (52) were followed up at six months when all assessments were repeated.

The presence of gum disease at baseline was associated with a six-fold increase in the rate of cognitive decline in participants over the six-month follow-up period of the study. Periodontitis at baseline was also associated with a relative increase in the pro-inflammatory state over the six-month follow-up period.

“These are very interesting results which build on previous work we have done that shows that chronic inflammatory conditions have a detrimental effect on disease progression in people with Alzheimer’s disease,” says Professor Clive Holmes, senior author from the University of Southampton, “Our study was small and lasted for six months so further trials need to be carried out to develop these results. However, if there is a direct relationship between periodontitis and cognitive decline, as this current study suggests, then treatment of gum disease might be a possible treatment option for Alzheimer’s.”

Source: University of Southampton via Sciencedaily.com

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