As we get older, it becomes more and more important to take care of our bodies — including our gums and teeth. Maybe your oral hygiene has slipped in recent months or years, but no matter what your situation, here’s another reason to get back on track: New research shows that tooth loss may be linked to cognitive decline often seen in dementia patients.
Scientists at New York University recently published a study in JAMDA: The Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine investigating a possible connection between oral hygiene and cognitive function. Given that one in six adults over the age of 65 have lost all of their teeth, they wanted to understand what other harmful effects the phenomenon could have and see if there was a way to treat them. They looked at 14 previous academic papers on the subject, which totaled 34,074 adult participants as well as 4,689 cases of people dealing with cognitive decline.
In comparing the results of those various studies, they found that people with tooth loss had a 148 percent higher risk of cognitive impairment and a 128 percent higher risk of developing dementia. However, researchers also found that participants who experienced tooth loss but wore dentures didn’t see a significant increase in their risk of cognitive decline.
Scientists are still studying the exact cause behind why tooth loss can have such a direct impact on brain function, but they believe that plaque buildup and other bacterial accumulation can affect other parts of the body, including the heart and the mind. In contrast, they hypothesize that dentures may help protect the gums and mouth over time, therefore preventing further oral decay and those brain-damaging side effects.
In the meantime, you should keep brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day, flossing once a day, and going to regular dentist appointments every six months. A little maintenance goes a long way.