New research from the Dental Institute at King’s College London suggests that gum disease may speed up cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients. Dr Mark Ide and colleagues looked at whether gum disease may impact the severity of cognitive decline among people with Alzheimer’s.
The team enrolled 59 participants with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease to their study, and 52 of these participants were followed for an average of six months. At the beginning and end of the follow-up period, the dental health of the subjects was assessed by a dental hygienist, and the researchers took blood samples from the participants and assessed them for inflammatory markers.
Compared with participants who did not have gum disease at study baseline, those who did were found to have a six-fold increase in the rate of cognitive decline during the six-month follow-up period. Based on their findings the team suggests that gum disease may increase the rate of cognitive decline by increasing the body’s inflammatory response.
“A number of studies have shown that having few teeth, possibly as a consequence of earlier gum disease, is associated with a greater risk of developing dementia,” says Dr Ide. He added: “We also believe, based on various research findings, that the presence of teeth with active gum disease results in higher body-wide levels of the sorts of inflammatory molecules which have also been associated with an elevated risk of other outcomes such as cognitive decline or cardiovascular disease. Research has suggested that effective gum treatment can reduce the levels of these molecules closer to that seen in a healthy state”.