In a new joint study (March 2016) by King’s College London and the University of Southampton, researchers set out to determine if there was a link between gum disease (Periodontitis) and the progression of Alzheimer’s in patients. The research team studied 59 people with mild to moderate dementia over a six month period. They monitored the state of their gums and inflammatory markers in their bodies. The patients were also cognitively assessed throughout the study period.

It has already been established that gum disease is more common in older people with Alzheimer’s Disease – since people with the disease had a reduced ability to take care of their personal oral hygiene and health.

However, in the new study, the English researchers found that gum disease, in turn, had a detrimental effect on Alzheimer’s patients’ rate of decline. Specifically, their results showed that gum disease sped up cognitive decline six times faster in Alzheimer’s patients.
How? The research findings, and that from a number of previous studies, indicate that higher levels of antibodies, due to periodontal bacteria, is linked to increased levels of inflammatory molecules – body-wide. Chronic inflammation conditions are directly linked to an elevated risk of health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease or cognitive decline.

But the link between gum disease and the progression of Alzheimer’s in a patient doesn’t end there.  Previous studies have already found that losing teeth at a younger age, due to gum disease, increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life. And the more teeth you lose to gum disease, the further you increase that risk.

There are other factors that play a part in the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. But growing evidence suggests that dental treatment of gum disease can benefit the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related diseases.

Professor Clive Holmes, chief author from the University of Southampton, says:

“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.”

In the light of these results, it’s clear that practicing good oral hygiene and health is not only essential for  healthy teeth. It also plays an important role in maintaining a healthy mind and body – free from chronic diseases in the future.


Reference:  Research paper: “Periodontitis and cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease” 2016 by Ide et al. Published online in the journal PLOS ONE