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Do Missing Teeth Warn of Dementia?

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Each lost tooth was linked to a 1.4% increase in the risk of cognitive impairment and a 1.1% increase in the risk of dementia.

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If you’re a senior, the risk of dementia and other cognitive impairment increases with each lost tooth, according to a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association.

Money Talks News’ recent article entitled “This Dental Issue Is Linked to Higher Dementia Risk” reports that a group of researchers at New York University reviewed several long-term studies and found participants with more missing teeth had on average a 48% higher risk of cognitive impairment and a 28% higher risk of dementia than other people.

The research found that those missing at least 20 teeth had a 31% higher risk of cognitive impairment.

Seniors who’d lost all their teeth had a 54% higher risk of cognitive impairment and a 40% higher risk of dementia.

Participants who used dentures to compensate for missing teeth didn’t have a significantly higher risk of dementia, the researchers said.

To reach their findings, researchers reviewed at more than a dozen earlier studies that included questionnaires, assessments, medical records and information from death certificates. Of more than 34,000 participants in the studies, nearly 4,700 suffered from cognitive impairment or dementia.

Previous research also incorporated medical examinations and self-reported records to assess tooth loss.

The researchers say it’s not clear why there’s a connection between tooth loss and the risk of cognitive decline. In a press release, they explained:

“Still, tooth loss can result in problems with chewing that might lead to nutritional deficiencies, chemical imbalances, or changes to the brain that affect brain function. Also, poor oral hygiene might lead to increased bacteria in the mouth and to gum disease, which can cause inflammation and raise the risk of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain, leading to dementia.”

It is also possible that tooth loss without the use of dentures indicates lower socioeconomic status and education level, which have been linked to an increased risk of dementia.

Another explanation may be that people with early cognitive decline might be less likely to maintain oral hygiene, which in turn can result in tooth loss.