Does gum disease play a role in cognitive decline?

Research project: Investigating the link between oral health and cognitive decline using a Mendelian randomization approach.

Lead Investigator: Dr Jing Kang

  • Institution: University of Leeds
  • Grant type: Alzheimer's Society Heather Corrie PhD studentship
  • Duration: 36 months
  • Amount: £83,330

Project summary

Many studies suggest that poor oral health is related to a higher risk of cognitive decline and development of dementia later in life. This project will use a novel statistical method to determine if there is a direct link between oral health and cognitive decline. 

The background

As we age, we become more vulnerable to poor oral health and some people will go onto develop oral diseases such as gum disease.

Some studies have shown gum disease is related to a higher risk of decline in memory and thinking skills as well as a higher risk of developing dementia later in life. However, these studies have not shown that this increase in risk is directly a result of poor oral health. It is possible that other factors are responsible for this link.

What does this project involve? 

Dr Kang aims to understand whether this decline in memory and thinking skills and increased risk of dementia is in part due to poor oral health.

The research team will use a new complex statistical analysis that takes into account the genetics of the individuals studied. This will shed light on whether poor oral health is one of the factors that causes a decline in thinking and memory skills and increased the risk of dementia. 

How will this project help people with dementia? 

There are a number of steps we can all take to reduce our risk of dementia: keeping physically healthy, eating well, not smoking and not drinking excessively.

If poor oral health is shown to play a role in increasing our risk of dementia, further research will help us to understand if we can also reduce this risk by maintaining good oral health.

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