Gum Disease/Tooth Loss and Dementia

As the numbers of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disabilities increase, scientists are investigating how these conditions may be related to oral health. After evaluating available research, the International and American Associations for Dental Research concluded that individuals with fewer than 20 teeth face a 26% greater risk of cognitive decline and 22% greater risk of dementia.

Tooth loss was the primary oral health indicator in all of these studies. Cognitive function was ascertained during follow-ups ranging from 4 to 32 years. In 4 of the studies, cognitive decline was the reported outcome. In 5 of them, dementia was the outcome. Previous research suggests 3 mechanisms accounting for this association.

First, research suggests tooth loss may lead to cognitive decline via reduced mastication-induced sensor stimulation to the brain. Second, suboptimal dentition and mastication could lead to poor nutrition and then reduced cognition. Third, the presence of periodontal disease may play a role in cognitive diseases.

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