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News / August 5, 2010

US study links perio disease with Alzheimer

by Guy Hiscott

New York University dental researchers have found the first long-term evidence that periodontal disease may increase the risk of cognitive dysfunction associated with Alzheimer’s disease in healthy individuals as well as in those who already are cognitively impaired.

The research team, led by Dr Angela Kamer, assistant professor of periodontology and implant dentistry, examined 20 years of data that support the hypothesis of a possible causal link between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Dr Kamer said: ‘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.

The study, conducted in collaboration with a team of researchers in Denmark, builds upon a 2008 study, also by Dr Kamer, which found that subjects with Alzheimer’s disease had a significantly higher level of antibodies and inflammatory molecules associated with periodontal disease in their plasma compared to healthy people. 

Dr Kamer’s latest findings are based upon an analysis of data on periodontal inflammation and cognitive function in 152 subjects in the Glostrop Aging Study, which has been gathering medical, psychological, oral health and social data on Danish men and women.

Dr Kamer examined data spanning a 20-year period ending in 1984, when the subjects were all 70 years of age.

Dr Kamer plans to conduct a follow-up study involving a larger, more ethnically diverse group of subjects, to further examine the connection between periodontal disease and low cognition.