Gum disease link to faster decline in Alzheimer's

From the Summer 2016 edition of Care and cure magazine, people in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease appear to decline more quickly in their memory and thinking if they have gum disease. 

Researchers assessed 59 people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease for memory ability, levels of inflammation and dental health. The majority of participants were followed up at six months when all assessments were repeated. 

People who had gum disease declined in memory ability six times faster than those who did not over the six-month follow-up period. The researchers concluded that gum disease is associated with an increase in cognitive decline in Alzheimer's, possibly by mechanisms linked to the body's inflammatory response

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer's Society, said, 'It's unclear, however, whether this is cause or effect – if the gum disease is triggering the faster decline of dementia, or vice versa.

'This study adds evidence to the idea that gum disease could potentially be a contributing factor to Alzheimer's, but we would need to see clinical trials to provide more solid evidence. If this is proven to be the case, better dental hygiene would offer a way to help slow the progression of dementia and enable people to remain independent for longer. 

'We know as dementia progresses, a person may lose the ability to clean their teeth, stop understanding that their teeth need to be kept clean, or lose interest in doing so. If this does happen then carers may need to help with this task – a dentist or hygienist can provide guidance and support on how to assist in cleaning another person's teeth.'