Link Between Gum Disease and Alzheimer’s?
I was reading a new study about a link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s. We often treat periodontitis or gum disease in our patients. It 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. When you have higher levels of antibodies to periodontal bacteria the study found an associated 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.
This latest study set out to determine whether periodontitis or gum disease is associated with increased dementia severity and subsequent greater progression of cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease. The study revealed that 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. The authors conclude that gum disease is associated with an increase in cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease, possibly via mechanisms linked to the body’s inflammatory response.
More and more studies link the body’s inflammatory response to increased rates of cognitive decline, suggesting that we should explore whether the treatment of gum disease might also benefit the treatment of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Professor Clive Holmes, senior author from the University of Southampton, says: “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. 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.”
Dr. Mark Ide, says: “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. 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.
The full study, "Periodontitis and cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease," was published here http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0151081