From Your Mouth to Your Brain: The Gum Disease-Dementia Link

iStock

People with chronic, severe gum disease that can lead to tooth loss (periodontitis) have a 6 percent higher risk of dementia than people who don’t have gum disease, , finds a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Researchers in South Korea analyzed health information on more than 260,000 people over 50 — one group without chronic periodontitis and one group with gum disease. After adjusting for other dementia risks, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and a sedentary lifestyle, the researchers found increased dementia risk in the group with severe gum disease.

Without treatment, mild gum disease (gingivitis) can progress to periodontitis and lead to tooth loss. Periodontitis also may be associated with heart disease and diabetes. To prevent gum disease, the American Academy of Periodontology recommends that you:

  • Brush your teeth after meals
  • Floss at least once a day
  • Use mouthwash to prevent plaque
  • Talk to you dentist about your risk
  • See a periodontist regularly