Poor Oral Health as a Chronic, Potentially Modifiable Dementia Risk Factor: Review of the Literature

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Poor oral health, including caries, tooth loss, and periodontitis, is ubiquitous worldwide, and is potentially treatable and preventable. Like adverse oral health conditions, Alzheimer disease and related disorders are also very common among aging populations. Established risk factors for Alzheimer disease include cerebrovascular disease and its vascular risk factors, many of which share associations with evidence of systemic inflammation also identified in periodontitis and other poor oral health states. In this review, we present epidemiologic evidence of links between poor oral health and both prevalent and incident cognitive impairment, and review plausible mechanisms linking these conditions, including evidence from compelling animal models. Considering that a large etiologic fraction of dementia remains unexplained, these studies argue for further multidisciplinary research between oral health conditions, including translational, epidemiologic, and possibly clinical treatment studies.

This article is part of the Topical Collection on Dementia