A new study published today in the journal called JAMDA, which stands for The Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, has said that tooth loss is one risk factor for dementia and cognitive problems.
The study discovered that each extra missing tooth someone has was linked with a 1.4 percent increased risk of mental impairment and 1.1 percent greater risk of getting a dementia diagnosis.
But, Bei Wu, PhD, who is the study’s top author and a professor at New York University’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing and the co-director of Aging Incubator at the university, reported that researchers are not yet sure which happens first: tooth loss or cognitive decline.
“It is a chicken or egg thing,” Wu said. “It can happen both ways.”
The crucial message, she says, is that there is a connection between the two issues and that prevention could be key to dealing with both.
Megan Sullivan, DMD, a maxillofacial surgery resident at the University of Texas, said that the analysis stresses the need to keep focused on dental care and the need to see your dentist — as the help you get from your dentist can guide you on many health problems beyond teeth.
Wu hypothesized that families who care for someone with cognitive decline “might have other competing issues to deal with.”
That can lead to forgotten dental appointments, not doing regular cleanings, and not aiding the loved one with their daily oral routine.
“People who have decline might forget (their routine) and from that you can have oral decline,” Wu said. “Oral health might take a back seat.”
Wu also said that with tooth loss, your nutritional intake might be compromised, leading to many health challenges, one being cognitive decline.
People who have lost teeth and bad oral care habits are also more vulnerable to bacteria, she said, which can cause certain diseases and illnesses.
“There are many pathways” leading from the teeth, she says.
Sullivan reported that this study highlights the importance of keeping on top of your oral care.
“Cleaning your teeth is not only for the sake of your teeth,” she said. “It is for your entire body — and your mental health and brain.”
Author: Steven Sinclaire