losing teeth leads to cognitive decline
Tooth loss is a risk factor for cognitive impairment and dementia, according to a recent study led by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and published in JAMDA: The Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. And with each additional tooth loss, the risk of impairment grows. Some good news though: that risk was not significant in older adults with dentures.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in six people aged 65 or older have lost all of their teeth. There have been speculations and studies over the years that have suggested a connection between tooth loss and cognitive decline, with a range of possible explanations. One of these is the simplest: when you are missing teeth you can experience difficulty in chewing, which can lead to nutritional deficits in your diet, and these nutritional deficits can affect the brain. Research also shows that gum disease, which is the leading cause of tooth loss, is directly connected to cognitive decline and impairment. In addition, tooth loss can indicate or create socioeconomic challenges that are risk factors for cognitive issues.

The connection between poor oral health and cognitive decline was the focus the study, which analyzed longitudinal studies of tooth loss and cognitive impairment. The researchers found that adults with more tooth loss had a 1.48 times higher risk of developing cognitive impairment, and 1.28 times higher risk of being diagnosed with dementia, even after controlling for other factors.*

The researchers also analyzed a subset of studies to determine if a greater number of missing teeth was linked to a higher risk for cognitive decline. Their findings concluded that each additional missing tooth was associated with a 1.4 percent increased risk of cognitive impairment, and a 1.1 percent increased risk of being diagnosed with dementia.

“Given the staggering number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia each year, and the opportunity to improve oral health across the lifespan, it’s important to gain a deeper understanding of the connection between poor oral health and cognitive decline,” said Bei Wu, PhD, Dean’s Professor in Global Health at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and co-director of the NYU Aging Incubator, as well as the study’s senior author. “Our findings underscore the importance of maintaining good oral health and its role in helping to preserve cognitive function,” said Wu.*

Oral health is a vital part of maintaining your overall health, and especially your cognitive health. Call to schedule a visit today!



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