Kincora’s Message from the MPF Foundation on Oral Care for Adults

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by MPC Foundation

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association suggests that older adults with missing teeth are at a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia. This concern only increases with each additional tooth a person is missing. While it may not be surprising that cognitive decline and oral health issues like cavities, gum disease, and tooth loss are more common in older adults, through analysing the medical records of over 30,000 participants, researchers at New York University have found a link between these two issues.

According to their studies, participants with more missing teeth had on average, a 48% higher risk of cognitive decline and a 28% higher risk of dementia. The analysis further detailed that each additional tooth lost accounted for a 1.4% increase in cognitive impairment and a 1.1% increased risk of dementia. Ultimately, those who were missing all of their teeth held a 54% risk of cognitive impairment and a 40% higher risk of developing dementia. While the following statistics can be daunting, participants who took reasonable precautions and used dentures as a substitute for their missing teeth did not demonstrate a higher risk of dementia than participants without missing teeth. The relationship between tooth loss and cognitive decline is still not fully understood, but researchers have suggested that tooth loss may lead to difficulties with chewing, resulting in nutritional deficiencies, chemical imbalances, and changes in how one’s brain naturally functions. Poor oral hygiene can also lead to increased bacteria in the mouth, causing gum disease and inflammation that may contribute to dementia. Alternatively, this case could be an example of causality, where it’s possible that a person’s cognitive decline could lead to neglect of their oral hygiene, resulting in tooth loss.

While researchers continue to investigate the connection between diminishing oral hygiene and cognitive decline, the findings of this study indicate that timely intervention, such as using dentures, regular brushing and flossing, and orthodontic treatments like annual teeth cleanings, may help prevent or slow down cognitive decline due to tooth loss.

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