More Evidence Linking Gum Disease to Cognitive Decline

Results of a paper reported in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society conclude that “poor periodontal health and tooth loss appear to increase the risk of both cognitive decline and dementia.” The researchers defined poor periodontal health as having deep periodontal pockets, periodontitis, tooth loss and alveolar (part of jaw where teeth arise) bone loss which was associated with both dementia and cognitive decline.

A total of 47 different population-based studies reviewed male and female participants in longitudinal studies of 6-14 years. The authors maintain that “from a clinical perspective, our findings emphasize the importance of monitoring and management of periodontal health in the context of dementia prevention.”

Similarly, an October 2021 Journal of the American Medical Directors Association review as reported by Harvard Health Publishing focused on 34,000 older adults with tooth loss. The article reported that “people in the study with more tooth loss had, on average, a 48% greater risk for developing cognitive impairment and a 28% greater risk for dementia compared to people with no tooth loss.” It’s thought that bacterium from the mouth travels to the brain, inadvertently damaging functional neurons related to memory.

Cognitive Decline, Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease 

Minor blips in memory are normal and can be considered a part of healthy aging. But when symptoms change to include difficulties with basic everyday activities like eating or getting dressed, odd or inappropriate behavior, struggles with balance, changes in personality or even getting lost, we assume Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. The dementia umbrella includes not just Alzheimer’s disease (the most common type of dementia) but Lewy body dementia, Huntington’s disease and more.

If you are experiencing symptoms like bad breath that doesn’t go away, or tender or bleeding gums, now is the time to address what could be early stage gum disease. Taking care of your teeth and gums now could mean lowering your risk of dementia.