Dementia & Tooth Loss: Is There a Connection?

Dementia & Tooth Loss: Is There a Connection?

Did you know that there is a link between tooth loss and dementia? Research shows that people with dental problems like missing teeth are more likely to develop dementia later in life. Replacing lost or damaged teeth may also decrease the risk of developing cognitive decline later in life. In this blog post we’ll go over what you need to know about tooth loss and dementia.

What You Need to Know About Tooth Loss

  • 1 in 6 Americans over the age of 65 lack natural teeth (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC))
  • Periodontitis is the most common reason for tooth loss in adults
  • Periodontitis is a severe form of gum disease that destroys the supportive structures around the tooth, ultimately causing the teeth to become loose and fall out

What You Need to Know About Dementia

  • Over 5 million individuals over the age of 65 are afflicted with dementia (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC))
  • Dementia is a term used to describe a collection of symptoms related to brain deterioration and problems with thinking, memory, and making decisions.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, but is not the only type
  • Risk factors include age, genetics, race/ethnicity, previous or current head injuries, smoking, and health issues such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. There is no known cause of dementia


longitudinal study

What You Need to Know About the Connection Between Tooth Loss and Dementia

A group of researchers at New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing recently published a study in the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-term Care Medicine that explored the possibility of a link between tooth loss and dementia. In this study, researchers evaluated data from 14 longitudinal studies that contained information about 37,074 adults and 4,689 cases of adults with diminished cognitive function. They concluded the following:

  • Adults with more tooth loss had a 1.48 times higher risk of developing cognitive impairment
  • Adults with more tooth loss had a 1.28 times higher risk of being diagnosed with dementia, despite controlling for other factors
  • Adults with missing teeth were more likely to be affected by cognitive decline if they did not have dentures (23.8% of individuals without dentures were more likely to have cognitive impairment, compared to only 16.9% of individuals with dentures.
  • A larger amount of missing teeth was associated with a higher risk for cognitive decline (each additional missing tooth increased the risk of cognitive impairment by 1.4% and the risk of being diagnosed with dementia by 1.1%)


“…the relationship between the number of missing teeth and risk of diminished cognitive function substantially strengthens the evidence linking tooth loss to cognitive impairment, and provides some evidence that tooth loss may predict cognitive decline” -Xiang Qi, a doctoral candidate at NYU Meyers


In Conclusion

The NYU Meyers College of Nursing study linked tooth loss to an increased risk for dementia. As a result, they are urging people to practice good oral health habits as a way to maintain their natural teeth and decrease the risk of dementia. While there are many risk factors for dementia, tooth loss is one that can be prevented by proper dental care.


Dr. Deborah TabbPatients at Bethesda Family Dentistry benefit from the knowledge and experience that only comes from a diverse team. From general dentistry to endodontic, periodontics, and cosmetic dental services, this Bethesda, MD clinic is ready to be the only source you need for all your oral health needs.