Tooth loss, dementia and neuropathology in the Nun study

J Am Dent Assoc. 2007 Oct;138(10):1314-22; quiz 1381-2. doi: 10.14219/jada.archive.2007.0046.


Background: Numerous studies have linked dementia to the subsequent deterioration of oral health. Few investigators, however, have examined oral disease as a potential risk factor in the development of dementia. The authors conducted a study to investigate a potential association between a history of oral disease and the development of dementia.

Methods: Longitudinal dental records supplemented data collected from 10 annual cognitive assessments of 144 Milwaukee participants in the Nun Study, a longitudinal study of aging and Alzheimer disease, who were 75 to 98 years old. Neuropathologic findings at autopsy were available for 118 participants who died.

Results: A low number of teeth increased the risk of higher prevalence and incidence of dementia.

Conclusion: Participants with the fewest teeth had the highest risk of prevalence and incidence of dementia.

Clinical implications: Edentulism or very few (one to nine) teeth may be predictors of dementia late in life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alveolar Bone Loss / complications
  • Alveolar Bone Loss / epidemiology
  • Apolipoprotein E4 / genetics*
  • Catholicism
  • Cerebral Infarction / pathology
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Dementia / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neurofibrillary Tangles / pathology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors
  • Tooth Loss / complications
  • Tooth Loss / epidemiology*
  • Wisconsin / epidemiology


  • Apolipoprotein E4