Routine oral care to treat gum disease may play a role in reducing inflammation and toxins in the blood and improving cognitive function in people with liver cirrhosis. This is according to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology.
Cirrhosis is the presence of scar tissue on the liver and can lead to liver failure. Complications of cirrhosis include infections and a build up of toxins in the brain.
Previous research shows that people with cirrhosis have changes in gut and salivary bacteria, which can lead to gum disease and a higher risk of cirrhosis-related complications.
Researchers studied two groups of volunteers that had cirrhosis and mild to moderate gum disease. One group received gum disease care and the other did not. The researchers collected samples before and 30 days after treatment. Each volunteer took standardised tests to measure cognitive function before and after treatment.
The treated group had increased levels of beneficial gut bacteria that could reduce inflammation, as well as lower levels of endotoxin-producing bacteria in the saliva, when compared to the untreated group. The untreated group demonstrated an increase in endotoxin levels in the blood over the same time period.
Cognitive function also improved in the treated group. This finding is relevant because there are limited other therapies available to alleviate cognition problems in this population, the researchers said: “The oral cavity could represent a treatment target to reduce inflammation and endotoxemia in patients with cirrhosis to improve clinical outcomes”.