Can Good Oral Health Help Slow Dementia?
A recent study conducted among individuals with mild to moderate dementia raises interesting questions about the relationship between oral health and dementia. Specifically, the study found that the presence of gum disease was associated with a six-fold increase in the rate of cognitive decline.
How could poor oral health be a contributor to dementia? In short, it is thought the body's response to gum inflammation may be hastening the brain's decline. Inflammation can cause immune cell swelling, which has been associated with Alzheimer’s, a type of dementia.
Researchers cautioned that the study was small, consisting of only 59 individuals. While larger studies are needed for confirmation, if there is a direct relationship between gum disease and cognitive decline, then treatment of gum disease, also known as periodontitis, might be a possible treatment option for Alzheimer's.
The importance of this connection could be far reaching. According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 47 percent of the U.S. adult population aged 30 years and older have mild, moderate or severe periodontitis, and 64 percent of adults over age 65 have moderate to severe forms of periodontal disease.
The study was published in the journal, PLOS ONE.