The aim of the study was to examine the association between telomere erosion and periodontitis in a long-standing prospective cohort study of New Zealand adults. Specific hypotheses tested were as follows: (i) that exposure to periodontitis at ages 26 and 38 was associated with accelerated leucocyte telomere erosion and (ii) that accelerated leucocyte telomere erosion was associated with higher rates of periodontitis by ages 26 and 38.
Periodontal attachment loss data were collected at ages 26 and 38. Blood samples taken at the same ages were analysed to obtain estimates of leucocyte telomere length and erosion over a 12-year period.
Overall, the mean telomere length was reduced by 0.15 T/S ratio (adjusted) from age 26 to 38 among the 661 participants reported on here. During the same period, the mean attachment loss increased by 10%, after adjusting for sex, socio-economic status and smoking. Regression models showed that attachment loss did not predict telomere length, and that telomere erosion did not predict attachment loss.
Although both periodontitis and telomere length are age-dependent, they do not appear to be linked, suggesting that determination of leucocyte telomere length may not be a promising clinical approach at this age for identifying people who are at risk for periodontitis.