Gum Disease Linked to Alzheimer’s

Just in time for National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month this November, a new study from  the NYU College of Dentistry has found a link between gum disease and an increased  risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. In 2008, Dr. Angela Kamer worked with researchers from Denmark to “analyze[] data on periodontal (gum) inflammation and cognitive function in 152 Danish men and women who were part of the Glostrop Aging Study, which gathered medical, psychological, oral health and social data from 1964-1984.” From this study, Dr. Kamer concluded that “subjects with Alzheimer’s disease had a significantly higher level of antibodies and inflammatory molecules associated with periodontal disease in their plasma (blood) compared to healthy people.”

Dr. Kamer’s most recent study involved drawing comparisons between the cognitive abilities of research subjects at ages 50 and 70 by “using the Digit Symbol Test, or DST, a part of the standard measurement of adult IQ that assesses how quickly subjects can link a series of digits, such as 2, 3, 4, to a corresponding list of digit-symbol pairs.”

The researchers discovered that those with gum disease at age 70 had much lower DST scores and that these same subjects were nine times more likely to achieve lower range DST scores than individuals with some or no evidence of gum disease. What’s more, the association between low DST scores and gum disease remained true even for individuals with multiple other risk factors for low DST scores, such as tooth loss unrelated to gum inflammation, cigarette smoking and obesity. The association was also strong for subjects with low DST scores at age 50. Dr. Kramer comments, “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.”

Vanessa Hurley

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