Gum Disease May Hasten Alzheimer’s
Poor oral hygiene may be both a consequence and a cause of rapid Alzheimer’s decline.
A study from the Dental Institute at King's College London in the U.K. has found that, in addition to the problems you already know about -- bad breath, bleeding, painful gums, ulcers -- gum disease may speed up cognitive decline in people who have Alzheimer’s.
The team studied 52 participants with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease, and followed them for an average of 6 months. The dental health of the subjects was assessed by a dental hygienist at the beginning and end of that period. The researchers also took blood samples from the participants and assessed them for inflammatory markers.
In addition, subjects underwent cognitive tests at study baseline and after 6 months.
Compared with participants who did not have gum disease at study baseline, those who did were found to have 6 times the rate of cognitive decline during the 6-month follow-up period.
The team suggests that gum disease may increase the rate of cognitive decline by increasing the body's inflammatory response.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that almost half of adults in the U.S. have some form of gum or periodontal disease. Rates increase with age -- more than 70% of adults aged 65 and older show these conditions.