THE BLOG
03/31/2016 05:45 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Alzheimer's Worse In Patients With Gum Disease, New Study Says

A new study has found that patients who are suffering from Alzheimer's and who have gum disease are at risk of a faster decline that patients who are in better dental health.

Related, previous studies have also found a direct link between gum disease and Alzheimer's patients, namely that higher rates of inflammation in the dental areas is linked to the increased decline of cognitive abilities.

Researchers at University of Southampton and King's College London studied 59 people and used blood samples to detect to inflammation, publishing the results in the Plos Journal. The participants were also assessed by a dental hygienist. Following six months, the participants were reassessed.

The result was that those who suffered from gum disease were six times progressed in cognitive decline as compared to those who had healthy gums.

Older Americans are at higher risk of gum disease, and those who suffer from diseases like Alzheimer's are at more risk because many lack the ability to properly care for their gums.

The goal of the study was to determine whether or not there was a link between periodontal disease and Alzheimer's cognitive decline.

According to lead researcher, Professor Clive Holmes, more research is required, but the findings are an efficacious start.

"If there is a direct relationship between periodontitis and cognitive decline, as this current study suggests, then treatment of gum disease might be a possible treatment option for Alzheimer's," Holmes wrote.

While this study is considered to be a small, limited trial, and while substantial future research is needed to determine whether or not there is a link between these diseases or if the findings are purely coincidental, it could lay the framework for a larger clinical study in the future.

If newer, larger studies determine there is a link between the diseases, it could lead to more integrated methods of care that help patients prevent or treat gum disease while simultaneously slowing the cognitive decline.

According to ALZ.org, there is no cure for Alzheimer's, "But drug and non-drug treatments may help with both cognitive and behavioral symptoms," the site explains.

If you have a loved one who suffers from this disease, there are ongoing clinical trials that they may be a candidate for. More information is available here.

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