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Tooth Loss Associated With Increased Cognitive Decline

Researchers at New York University (NYU) Rory Meyers College of Nursing have found a connection between tooth loss and increased cognitive impairment.

Researchers at New York University (NYU) Rory Meyers College of Nursing have found a connection between tooth loss and increased cognitive impairment. Results from the study, “Dose-Response Meta-Analysis on Tooth Loss With the Risk of Cognitive Impairment and Dementia” published in JAMDA, suggest tooth loss is a risk factor for cognitive impairment. However, older adults with dentures were not found to be at increased risk for dementia or cognitive decline, indicating that dentures may help protect older adults.

“Oral health professionals should continue to emphasize the importance of regular dental visits and good oral hygiene. Our findings add more knowledge to the increasing body of literature on the linkage between oral health, systemic diseases and cognitive function,” says senior author Bei Wu, PhD, Dean’s Professor in Global Health at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and codirector of the NYU Aging Incubator.

In research supported by the National Institutes of Health, Wu and colleagues from Duke University conducted a meta-analysis of 14 longitudinal studies of tooth loss and cognitive impairment. The studies included 34,074 adults and 4,689 cases of subjects with diminished cognitive decline.  In their analysis, investigators found adults with more tooth loss were at 1.48 times higher risk of developing cognitive impairment and 1.28 times higher risk of being diagnosed with dementia

Additionally, the association was nonsignificant for study participants using dentures. According to NYU News, adults with missing teeth were more likely to experience cognitive impairment if they did not have dentures (23.8%), as compared to adults with dentures (16.9%).

In a subset of eight studies, researchers found a dose-response association between tooth loss and cognitive impairment in older adults. Each additional tooth loss was associated with a 1.4%  increased risk of cognitive impairment and 1.1% increased risk of being diagnosed with dementia, according to NYU News

Wu notes that healthcare professionals can help older adults improve their oral health by providing reminders about upcoming appointments to ensure they do not miss a scheduled dental visit, and emphasize the importance of effective self-care. 

There are many interventions that can be implemented to improve the oral hygiene of older adults with cognitive impairment. Wu and her team designed an intervention, published in Gerodontology,  that consists of lifestyle intervention, increasing oral health literacy among older adults and their family members, and assisting family members to develop cueing and reminder strategies to improve the oral health of older adults.

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