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Keywords:

  • dementia;
  • Alzheimer's disease;
  • caries;
  • oral health;
  • elderly

OBJECTIVES: To examine the prevalence of coronal and root caries in a memory clinic–based population of elderly patients with and without a diagnosis of dementia and to examine the influence of age, sex, social relations, social position, and functional ability.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional.

SETTING: Patients referred with possible cognitive dysfunction were recruited from two university hospital dementia clinics.

PARTICIPANTS: In total, 106 dentate persons participated in the study. Mean age was 82, 69 were women, and 87 had a diagnosis of dementia.

MEASUREMENTS: Data from interviews and a clinical examination were collected. The diagnosis of dementia was made at the dementia clinics according to the criteria of International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision. Active coronal and root caries was assessed using previously defined diagnostic criteria from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

RESULTS: The mean number of coronal and root surfaces with caries was statistically significantly higher in subjects with a diagnosis of dementia (7.0 vs 2.7, P<.05). Subjects with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease had a significantly higher mean number of root surfaces with caries (4.9, P<.05) than subjects with other dementia diagnoses (2.3) and those without dementia (1.7). People with Alzheimer's disease also had significantly more mean total caries than subjects without dementia (7.8 vs 2.7, P<.05). Participants with a Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) score less than 24 had significantly more caries than participants with a MMSE-score of 24 or higher (7.6 vs 4.3, P<.05).

CONCLUSION: Patients with newly diagnosed dementia already had a high level of active dental caries when they were referred to the memory clinic. The high caries prevalence was related to dementia type and severity.