Diabetes and tooth loss together make cognitive decline even worse

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In a study from NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, scientists found that having both diabetes and tooth loss contributes to worse cognitive function and faster cognitive decline in older adults.

The findings underscore the importance of dental care and diabetes management for older adults in reducing the devastating personal and societal costs of Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias.

Diabetes is a known risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia.

Several of the hallmarks of diabetes—high blood sugar, insulin resistance, inflammation, and related heart disease—are thought to contribute to changes in the brain.

A growing body of research has revealed a similar connection among poor oral health, particularly gum disease and tooth loss, and cognitive impairment and dementia.

Like diabetes, inflammation plays a key role in gum disease, and these inflammatory processes may contribute to cognitive decline.

In addition, painful gums and missing teeth can make it difficult to chew, leading to changes in diet that can result in nutritional deficiency.

Nutritional deficiency, which can also be worsened by impaired glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in diabetes, is another risk factor for cognitive impairment and dementia.

In the study, the team used data from the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study.

The researchers included 9,948 older adults who were grouped by age (65 to 74, 75 to 84, and 85 and older) in their analysis. They were particularly interested in older adults who had lost all of their teeth.

The team found that older adults aged 65 to 84 with both diabetes and complete tooth loss had worse cognitive function than their counterparts without either condition.

Over time, older adults aged 65 to 74 with diabetes alone experienced accelerated cognitive decline, and those aged 65 to 84 without any teeth also experienced accelerated cognitive decline.

But older adults aged 65 to 74 with both diabetes and complete tooth loss had the fastest rate of cognitive decline.

The link between diabetes, tooth loss, and cognitive decline was inconclusive for adults 85 and older.

For older people with both poor oral health and diabetes, the researchers stress the importance of regular dental visits, adherence to diabetes treatment and self-care to control blood sugar levels, and cognitive screenings in primary care settings.

If you care about diabetes, please read studies that pomace olive oil could help lower blood cholesterol, and intermittent fasting could help reverse type 2 diabetes.

If you care about tooth health, please read studies about gel that could treat gum disease by fighting inflammation, and how to prevent and reverse gum disease.

The study was conducted by Bei Wu et al and published in the Journal of Dental Research.

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