Patients with periodontal disease are significantly more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who are periodontally healthy. This interaction is thought to be mediated by inflammation, the periodontal microbiome, and the immune reactions to those pathogens that are associated with the oral biofilm. The elderly population in the United States is expected to nearly double by the year 2050. Currently, over 5 million adults in the United States suffer with dementia. The generation that makes up the growing elderly population has rates of total edentulism that are dropping precipitously. Furthermore, medications for dementia often increase symptoms of xerostomia, and higher caries rates are seen in patients with dementia, particularly those with moderate to severe disease and/or those who reside in residential nursing care facilities. It follows, therefore, that many older adults are dentate and suffering with dementia and will require dental care that is delivered or facilitated by primary care providers. There is a need for protocols that allow for effective oral home care for dementia patients, while minimizing care-resistant behaviors, as well as nonsurgical interventions for patients with caries and/or periodontal disease. This course seeks to improve the dental care provider’s understanding of the interaction between periodontal disease, dental caries, and dementia. It will also serve as an aid in the clinical decision-making process to optimize dental health for patients with dementia and periodontal disease.
Upon completion of this course, the dental professional should be able to:
- Understand the current scientific literature about the prevalence, etiology, and stages of dementia
- Recognize and discuss with patients the association of periodontal diseases and oral bacteria with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Develop and implement strategies for communication and delivery of oral hygiene and dental care to patients suffering with dementia
- Evaluate patients’ risk factors and oral hygiene to develop effective intervention and treatment modalities to reduce caries and periodontal disease rates
MARIA L. GEISINGER, DDS, MS, is a professor and director of advanced education in periodontology in the Department of Periodontology in the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry. Dr. Geisinger is a diplomate in the American Board of Periodontology. She currently serves as chair of the American Dental Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs and as a member of the American Academy of Periodontology’s Board of Trustees.
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