Researchers from New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry 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 and those who already are cognitively impaired. The NYU study offers fresh evidence that inflammation of periodontal tissue may contribute to brain inflammation, neurodegeneration, and Alzheimer's disease, according to the university. The findings were presented last month at the International Association for Dental Research meeting in Barcelona, Spain. The research team, led by Angela Kamer, D.M.D., M.S., Ph.D., an 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. "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," Dr. Kamer said in a press release. Dr. Kamer found that periodontal inflammation at age 70 was strongly associated with lower DST scores at age 70. Subjects with periodontal inflammation were nine times more likely to test in the lower range of the DST compared to subjects with little or no periodontal inflammation. This strong association held true even in those subjects who had other risk factors linked to lower DST scores, including obesity, cigarette smoking, and tooth loss unrelated to gum inflammation. The strong association also held true in those subjects who already had a low DST score at age 50. Dr. Kamer said she 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.