Gum disease linked to faster cognitive decline

A small study has found a link between gum disease and the rate of cognitive decline in people who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Led by King’s College London and the University of Southampton, the observational study cognitively assessed 59 people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. A blood sample was taken to measure inflammatory markers in their blood and the participants’ dental health was assessed by a dental hygienist.

52 participants were followed up at six months and the assessments were repeated.

The researchers found gum disease was associated with a six-fold increase in the rate of cognitive decline in participants over the six month follow up period and concluded that gum disease is associated with an increase in cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease. This may be caused by mechanisms linked to the body’s inflammatory response.

Dr Doug Brown, director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society said: ‘This small study suggests that people who have both Alzheimer’s and gum disease declined in memory and thinking more quickly than those who had better dental health. It’s unclear however, whether this is cause of effect – if the gum disease is triggering the faster decline of dementia, or vice versa.”

Dr Brown said this study adds evidence to the idea that gum disease could potentially be a contributing factor to Alzheimer’s, but clinical trials are needed to provide solid evidence.

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