Gum disease linked with increased dementia risk

29 July 2020

Researchers in the US have linked gum disease with an increased risk of dementia. The scientific journal Neurology published the findings today (Wednesday 22 July).

What did the researchers look at?

The team looked at 4,559 volunteers, aged between 45 and 64 years. The volunteers, who were based in the US, did not have dementia and underwent a full dental examination.

Over three-quarters of the study volunteers had signs of dental problems ranging from mild gum disease to no teeth at all.

What did the researchers find?

The scientists followed the study volunteers over two decades. They found that 19% of the study volunteers developed dementia.

Only 14% of those who had healthy gums and all their teeth at the start of the study developed dementia, compared to 23% of those without teeth who developed the condition.

Alzheimer’s Research UK’s expert opinion

Gum disease linked with increased dementia risk, Alzheimer's Research UKDr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
Previous research has found bacteria associated with gum disease in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s but it remains unclear if it plays any role in the development of the disease.

“In this study, scientists looked at people with gum disease who went on to develop dementia and compared them against those with no issues with their teeth. They found those with severe gum disease had a slightly increased risk of developing memory problems, but this link does not mean gum disease is a cause of dementia.

“Dementia is complex with strong evidence indicating that factors other than gum disease are also central to the development of the condition. However, maintaining good dental health is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout your life

“With one in three people born today expected to develop dementia in their lifetime, now is the time to see further invest from government in dementia research to change this picture. By understanding any potential risk factors underlying dementia, we stand a greater chance of being able to reduce the number of people developing the condition.”

Want to read the science?

Neurology: Periodontal Disease and Incident Dementia: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC)