Dementia is a rapidly rising global health crisis that silently disables families and ends lives and livelihoods around the world. To date, however, no early biomarkers or effective therapies exist. It is now clear that brain microglia are more than mere bystanders or amyloid phagocytes; they can act as governors of neuronal function and homeostasis in the adult brain. Here, we highlight the fundamental role of microglia as tissue-resident macrophages in neuronal health. Then, we suggest how chronic impairment in microglia-neuron cross-talk may secure the permanence of the failure of synaptic and neuronal function and health in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Understanding how to assess and modulate microglia-neuron interactions critical for brain health will be key to developing effective therapies for dementia.