alzheimers diseasePeople suffering with gum disease for 10 years or longer are 70% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study, published in Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy, looked at whether severe gum disease in people aged over 50 could increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

It found that patients who suffered with long standing gum disease, gum disease lasting for 10 years or longer, were 70% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, although a causal link was not established.

‘The links between oral health and diseases that effect other parts of our body are becoming increasingly apparent with every new piece of research,’ Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said.

‘The good news is gum disease is an entirely preventable and treatable disease, by ensuring good, consistent, oral health everybody can avoid gum disease and its associated risks.

‘While gum disease can be treated very effectively, the best approach is certainly prevention and making sure we do not fall foul of it at all.

‘We welcome more research on this topic, as a greater understanding could be a game-changer in helping more people avoid Alzheimer’s disease.’

Alzheimer’s disease

The link between gum disease and cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease has recently been established.

A study, jointly led by King’s College London and the University of Southampton and published in the journal PLOS ONE, set out to determine whether periodontitis or gum disease is associated with increased dementia severity and subsequent greater progression of cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

The authors concluded 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.

‘A number of studies have shown that having few teeth, possibly as a consequence of earlier gum disease, is associated with a greater risk of developing dementia,’ Dr Mark Ide, first author from the Dental Institute at King’s College London, said.

‘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.

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

‘Previous studies have also shown that patients with Alzheimer’s disease have poorer dental health than others of similar age and that the more severe the dementia the worse the dental health, most likely reflecting greater difficulties with taking care of oneself as dementia becomes more severe.’