One thing we all dread about growing older is losing our memories. 'Dementia' is the overall term for various types of cognitive impairment related to aging, including Alzheimer's disease. While there's no known cure at this time, research is underway in many areas of medicine, looking for connections, causes and possible preventative measures. So what do teeth have to do with the health of your brain? You might be surprised… One intriguing factor that seems to be coming up more and more is the link between oral health and dementia. Studies have shown a link between periodontal, or gum disease, and dementia. Could it be that prevention of this tragic disability is as close at hand as your toothbrush? In a study published in 2009 by Columbia University researchers in New York City, over 2,300 men and women were tested for the bacteria that cause periodontitis. This infection can cause gums to become so irritated that they no longer hold the teeth firmly in place, causing wobbly teeth and tooth loss. The study subjects, who were all over age 60, were also given a series of tests challenging their memory functions. Nearly 20 percent of the subjects had difficulty completing the tests, and those with the poorest dental health had the lowest scores for memory and mental function. For example, one part of the test asked subjects to recall a simple sequence of three words. The higher their level of disease—producing oral bacteria, the poorer the subjects performed on this test. Those with the highest levels of gum disease were three times as likely to have trouble with word recall than those with the healthiest mouths and gums. This group was also twice as likely to fail another test based on simple mental arithmetic calculations.