This tooth problem linked to increased cognitive impairment, dementia

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In a new study from NYU, researchers found that tooth loss is a risk factor for cognitive impairment and dementia—and with each tooth lost, the risk of cognitive decline grows.

However, this risk was not strong among older adults with dentures, suggesting that timely treatment with dentures may protect against cognitive decline.

About one in six adults aged 65 or older have lost all of their teeth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Prior studies show a connection between tooth loss and diminished cognitive function, with researchers offering a range of possible explanations for this link.

For one, missing teeth can lead to difficulty chewing, which may contribute to nutritional deficiencies or promote changes in the brain.

A growing body of research also points to a connection between gum disease—a leading cause of tooth loss—and cognitive decline. In addition, tooth loss may reflect life-long socioeconomic disadvantages that are also risk factors for cognitive decline.

In the study, the team conducted a meta-analysis using studies of tooth loss and cognitive impairment. The 14 studies included in their analysis involved a total of 34,074 adults and 4,689 cases of people with diminished cognitive function.

The researchers found that adults with more tooth loss had 1.48 times higher risk of developing cognitive impairment and 1.28 times higher risk of being diagnosed with dementia.

However, adults missing teeth were more likely to have cognitive impairment if they did not have dentures (23.8%) compared to those with dentures (16.9%).

Further analysis revealed that the association between tooth loss and cognitive impairment was not strong when participants had dentures.

The researchers also found a greater number of missing teeth was linked to a higher risk for cognitive decline.

Each additional missing tooth was linked to a 1.4% increased risk of cognitive impairment and 1.1% increased risk of being diagnosed with dementia.

The findings strengthen the evidence linking tooth loss to cognitive impairment and provides some evidence that tooth loss may predict cognitive decline.

If you care about dementia, please read studies about this mental problem can help predict dementia years before memory loss and findings of this common health problem may increase your dementia risk.

For more information about dementia and cognitive health, please see recent studies about this hobby may help protect against cognitive decline in older people and results showing that this eye disease linked to higher risk of cognitive impairment.

The study is published in JAMDA: The Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. One author of the study is Bei Wu, Ph.D.

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