Periodontal disease may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers at the NYU College of Dentistry.
This is the first long-term evidence that gum disease may increase the risk of cognitive dysfunction associated with Alzheimer’s disease in healthy individuals, as well as in those who already are cognitively impaired. Those with gum inflammation were nine times more likely to develop cognitive impairment than those without periodontal disease.
The study offers fresh evidence that gum inflammation may lead to brain inflammation, neurodegeneration, and Alzheimer’s disease: ‘The research suggests that cognitively normal subjects with periodontal inflammation are at an increased risk of lower cognitive function compared to cognitively normal subjects with little or no periodontal inflammation,’ said team leader Dr Angela Kamer, assistant professor of periodontology and implant dentistry.
These latest findings are based on an analysis of data on periodontal inflammation and cognitive function in 152 subjects in the Glostrop Aging Study, which has been gathering medical, psychological, oral health, and social data on Danish men and women. Dr Kamer examined data spanning a 20-year period ending in 1984, when the subjects were all 70 years of age. The findings were presented at the 2010 annual meeting of the International Association for Dental Research 16 July, in Barcelona, Spain.
Dr Kamer’s research was conducted in collaboration with Dr Douglas E. Morse, associate professor of epidemiology and health promotion at NYU College of Dentistry, and a team of researchers in Denmark. It builds upon her 2008 study, which found that subjects with Alzheimer’s disease had a significantly higher level of antibodies and inflammatory molecules associated with periodontal disease in their plasma compared to healthy people.
Dr Kamer plans to conduct a follow-up study involving a larger, more ethnically diverse group of subjects, to further examine the connection between periodontal disease and low cognition.