Amid the myriad, often more pronounced health issues that can arise as a person ages, it can be easy to lose sight of dental health. And although periodontitis, like palliative care, is a concern not strictly limited to the elderly, this community can especially benefit from being knowledgeable about it — especially because the means to combat this gum disease may change as we age, according to UNLV research.
Dental professor Jeffrey Ebersole and registered dietician and nutrition sciences professor Arpita Basu recently teamed up on a study focused on the environmental, nutritional, and age-related factors that affect periodontitis, an inflammatory disease of the gums that affects more than 3 million people each year in the United States.
“We don’t understand biologically why the prevalence of periodontitis increases as we age,” Ebersole said. “But one possibility is fundamental metabolic changes caused by dietary changes and lower-than-optimal levels of nutrients that alter regulation of inflammation and immunity.”
The researchers’ findings, which were published in the article “Serum Nutrient Levels and Aging Effects on Periodontitis” in the December 2018 issue of Nutrients, suggest that improving the intake of specific nutrients may provide a new strategy to diminish the significant increase in periodontitis that occurs with aging.
The team is currently evaluating whether an intervention that increases specific nutrients in a person’s blood levels will affect the gum disease’s onset and/or progression. They are also pursuing grant funding for additional research on periodontal disease in the elderly.