Oral Health For Adults – Latest On Dementia And Alzheimer’s

Posted on Jan 16, 2018 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

These days, it’s not unusual to open the refrigerator and wonder to myself, “Now, what was I going to get?” Or, to get halfway up the stairs only to realize I’d forgotten what I was headed up for.

Quite frankly, most busy adults have the same things occur from time to time. Our minds become so preoccupied that our focus on one thing is quickly shoved aside by other things that are hovering around, calling out for attention.

While I can laugh with my friends about these happenings (since they experience similar things from time to time), for a percentage of aging adults in the U.S., this forgetfulness has no humor in it.

In the United States alone, 4 to 5 million adults are said to suffer with dementia. While this is a concern, a 2016 article in the New York Times shared how American adult dementia rates are actually declining – from 11.6 percent (in 2000) to 8.8 percent.

Too, the average age of being affected by dementia has risen from 80.7 years to 82.4 years. (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/21/health/dementia-rates-united-states.html) This is good news, although it fails to take into account the rising percentage of Alzheimer’s sufferers.

According to a 2017 report put out by the Alzheimer’s Association, “As the size and proportion of the U.S. population age 65 and older continue to increase, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s or other dementias will grow. This number will escalate rapidly in coming years, as the population of Americans age 65 and older is projected to nearly double from 48 million to 88 million by 2050.”


Remembering that the first of those categorized in the baby boom generation turned 70 in 2016, there is a dire concern among the medical and dental communities surrounding the overwhelming needs of these individuals. Constant home care, frequent doctor visits and overseeing their unique needs as each declines in the ability to care for themselves.

The link between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease to oral health is revealing itself more and more through research. In one study shared by Reuters, a research team at the Chung Shan Medical University in Taichung City examined patients ages 50 and over who suffered with long-term periodontitis (advanced gum disease). The goal was to determine if this could cause a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Although no direct link between periodontitis and Alzheimer‘s was found, they did note that people who had gum inflammation for 10 years or longer had a 70 percent higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than those without periodontitis.

The results rang true even after adjustments were made for factors that could influence the onset of Alzheimer‘s, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-alzheimers-gum-disease/long-term-gum-disease-linked-to-alzheimers-disease-idUSKCN1AX2F0)

As a periodontist, one of the greatest challenges I see is how periodontal disease can exist for years without an individual realizing its presence. For example, when some adults see blood in the sink when they brush, they assume it’s because they’re doing a good job. In reality, this is NOT a good thing and actually an initial symptom of gum disease.

Other signs and symptoms are tender gums, swollen gums, persistent bad breath, gums that pull away from teeth (receded gums) and expose darker areas of a tooth (these are actually sections of your tooth root), and gums that darken in color to red rather than a healthy pink.

As gum disease worsens, pus pockets form and teeth may start to loosen as the bone structures that support them are destroyed by this destructive oral bacteria. Eventually, some teeth may require removal.

It is estimated that over 47 percent of American adults have some level of gum disease. Therefore, it’s no surprise that gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss.

While these symptoms sound pretty severe, it’s amazing how many new patients I see tell me they haven’t noticed any obvious symptoms. And, a great many patients are totally unaware of what symptoms are associated with gum disease.

Protect your smile, your overall health and that of your loved ones. Be proactive when it comes to your oral health and share this information with others. The potent, infectious bacteria of gum disease should be deemed downright dangerous to your health. Yet, you can easily avoid gum disease with a committed oral hygiene routine at home and regular dental check-ups.

If you haven’t been diligent in your oral health in the past, we’re here to help. Call 828-274-9440 to begin with a thorough periodontal examination. If periodontal disease is found to exist, we’ll determine a treatment plan to help you achieve excellent oral health. From there, we’ll create an individualized care program so you can maintain your oral health between visits.




Recent Posts