The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $1.3 million grant to a group of researchers who have found a link between gum disease and memory loss.
The research team includes Richard Crout, D.M.D., Ph.D., an expert on gum disease and the associate dean for research at West Virginia University (WVU) School of Dentistry; gerontologist Bei Wu, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of North Carolina; Brenda Plassman, Ph.D., a specialist in memory research at Duke University; and Jersey Liang, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Michigan.
The team will look at health records of several thousand Americans over many years, according to WVU.
"This could have great implications for health of our aging populations," Dr. Crout stated in a press release. "With rates of Alzheimer's skyrocketing, imagine the benefits of knowing that keeping the mouth free of infection could cut down on cases of dementia."
The research builds on an ongoing study of West Virginians age 70 and older. Working with the WVU School of Medicine, School of Dentistry researchers have given oral exams and memory tests to 270 elderly people in more than a dozen West Virginia counties.
Funded by a $419,000 two-year grant, they've discovered that about 23% of the group suffers from mild to moderate memory loss.
"If you have a gum infection, you'll have an increased level of inflammatory by-products," Dr. Crout noted. "We're looking for markers in the blood that show inflammation to see if there is a link to memory problems. We'd like to go full circle and do an intervention -- to clean up some of the problems in the mouth and then see if the inflammatory markers go down."Los Angeles Periodontist