Gum disease linked with memory decline in Alzheimer’s

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

According to researchers, periodontitis or gum disease is associated with increased dementia severity and subsequent greater progression of cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

“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,” added senior author Clive Holmes from the University of Southampton in Britain.

In the observational study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, 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.

A dental hygienist who was blind to cognitive outcomes assessed participants’ dental health.

The majority of participants (52) were followed-up at six months when all assessments were repeated.

The presence of gum disease at baseline was linked to 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.

However, growing evidence from a number of studies links the body’s inflammatory response to increased rates of cognitive decline, suggesting that it would be worth exploring whether the treatment of gum disease might also benefit the treatment of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

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, the researchers stated.

Research has suggested that effective gum treatment can reduce the levels of these molecules closer to that seen in a healthy state.