If You Notice This in Your Mouth, Your Dementia Risk Is Higher, Research Shows
Several studies have highlighted the association between these two health problems.
You might assume that as you get older, your mind naturally becomes less sharp, but this is not exactly a normal part of aging, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you start experiencing memory troubles such as getting lost in a familiar neighborhood, forgetting old memories, or even forgetting the names of your loved ones, these could be signs of dementia, a condition that impairs one's cognitive abilities. Dementia typically affects those who are older, but many people go their entire lives without developing it. There are, however, risk factors to be aware of. Accumulating research has found that your oral health could actually give you insight into your chances of developing dementia. Read on to find out what signs you should be looking for in your mouth.
Gum disease can increase your risk of dementia.
Several studies over the past few years have uncovered an association between gum disease and dementia. Researchers from South Korea studied data from more than 262,000 adults 50 and older and found that gum disease, also known as periodontitis, was a risk factor for dementia. Their study, which was published 2019 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, followed patients over the course of about 10 years, concluding that those who were diagnosed with chronic periodontitis end up having a 6 percent higher risk of developing dementia than people who do not have gum disease.
Another large-scale study from 2020 published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease suggests this association may be the result of Porphyromonas gingivalis, an oral bacteria that most commonly causes gum disease. According to the researchers, the antibodies that are produced to fight off this bacteria and resulting infection may actually be associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease, one form of dementia.
Gum disease can manifest in several different ways.
Gum disease doesn't have just one telltale warning sign. According to WebMD, there are several symptoms that can be produced from gum disease—although you could have gum disease without any obvious symptoms, which is why you should maintain regular checkups with your dentist either way. Symptoms of gum disease include gums that bleed during and after you brush your teeth, red and swollen gums, persistent bad breath or bad taste in your mouth, receding gums, formation of deep pockets between teeth and gums, loose or shifting teeth, or changes in the way teeth fit together when biting down.
But your dementia risk may be highest if you have gum disease-related tooth loss.
According to the Mayo Clinic, severe gum disease can lead to tooth loss over time if untreated, and this may increase your dementia risk even more. A 2020 study published in Neurology analyzed more than 8,000 individuals who did not have dementia at the start of the study for close to 20 years. The researchers found that the percentage of participants who developed dementia was actually highest among those who had suffered tooth loss because of their gum disease. According to the study, patients who had severe gum disease with some sort of tooth loss had a 22 percent increased risk of dementia, while those who had complete gum disease-released tooth loss had a 26 percent increased risk, as reported by The New York Times.
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Nearly half of all U.S. adults have some form of gum disease.
Brushing your teeth consistently is an important factor in keeping your smile bright and white. But keeping up-to-date on your dental hygiene isn't just about your appearance—it also helps prevent periodontitis. Despite being preventable, gum disease is very prevalent in the U.S. According to the latest data from the CDC, more than 47 percent of adults 30 years or older have some form of periodontal disease. And these numbers just increase with age: More than 70 percent of adults 65 years and older have periodontal disease, according to the agency.