New research has identified a link between periodontitis and cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease patients.
The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, revealed that the presence of periodontitis was associated with a six fold increase in the rate of cognitive decline after a six month follow-up of 60 Alzheimer’s disease patients.
The presence of periodontitis at the beginning of the study was also associated with an increase in pro-inflammatory markers in the blood.
The authors proposed that the increase in cognitive decline in those with periodontitis could be a result of systemic inflammation.
Professor Clive Holmes, senior author from the University of Southampton, said: “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, first author from the Dental Institute at King’s College London said: “Gum disease is widespread in the UK and US, and in older age groups is thought to be a major cause of tooth loss. In the UK in 2009, around 80% of adults over 55 had evidence of gum disease, whilst 40% of adults aged over 65-74 (and 60% of those aged over 75) had less than 21 of their original 32 teeth, with half of them reporting gum disease before they lost teeth.
“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.
“Previous studies have also shown that patients with Alzheimer’s Disease have poorer dental health than others of similar age and that the more severe the dementia the worse the dental health, most likely reflecting greater difficulties with taking care of oneself as dementia becomes more severe.”