News & Press
John C. Chao, D.D.S., M.A.G.D
Faculty, USC School of Dentistry
Losing Teeth Linked To Losing Memory
There are many contributing factors associated with Alzheimer's disease, the chief among which is genetics. Now researchers found another possible link to Alzheimer's when they inadvertently found a correlation between tooth loss and the onset of Alzheimer's, through studies on identical twins.
Prior studies have shown that, when a twin is diagnosed for Alzheimer's or dementia, the unaffected twin has 60% chance of developing the same. In a retrospective study of the background history of 109 pairs of twins where one twin has been diagnosed for Alzheimer's, Dr. Margaret Gatz, a professor at the University of California, discovered that a larger number of the twins had missing or loose teeth at an early age. Since the most prevalent cause of tooth loss in adults is gum disease, and loose teeth is a primary sign of gum disease, Dr. Gatz believes that gum disease is a "solid risk factor" for Alzheimer's. Presumably further studies are pending.
Gum disease has already been implicated as a risk factor in such diseases as arteriosclerosis, premature child birth, low-weight babies and pneumonia. Population studies have indicated shortened lifespan for those with severe gum disease. It appears that, increasingly, scientific research points to oral infection and inflammation as a significant risk factor in the development of serious ailments.
In recognition of the impact of uncontrolled oral infection upon the rest of the body, more and more surgeons are requiring their patients to have gum infections and dental abscesses treated before major surgeries are performed.
For all the above reasons it is becoming clear that regular dental checkups are not only good for your oral health, but also for your general well-being. Saving your teeth just might help save your memory!