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Gum health could be a risk factor for dementia, study suggests

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CNN — 

Anyone who has had gum disease is probably familiar with the discomfort and embarrassment of poor oral health, such as bad breath, bleeding, discolored teeth and even tooth loss.

But gum disease, especially the more advanced type known as periodontal disease, can affect far more than our mouths. Periodontal disease is associated with a wide range of health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and dementia, making the reduced access to dental care during the coronavirus pandemic a significant concern, dentists say.

A new study published Wednesday in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, has added to that body of knowledge. There is a link between stages of periodontal disease, which can ultimately cause tooth and bone loss, and mild cognitive impairment and dementia 20 years later, the study found.

“We looked at people’s dental health over a 20-year period and found that people with the most severe gum disease at the start of our study had about twice the risk for mild cognitive impairment or dementia by the end,” said study author Ryan Demmer, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis.

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