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Link Found Between Tooth Loss and Declining Cognitive Function

While reduced mental and physical capacity are common as we age, early identification of those at higher risk may help slow their decline. A recent study may have discovered such an identifier. It found that there may be a link between loss of teeth later in life and declining mental and physical functioning.

Participants in the study included 3,166 adults age 60 and older. All took part in the English Longitudinal Study of Aging.

The researchers examined the participant’s performance in memory and walking speed tests. They found that those with no teeth performed approximately 10% worse in memory and walking speed tests than those with teeth.

The researchers then adjusted for a range of factors including sociodemographic characteristics, health problems, physical health, smoking, drinking, depression, specific biomarkers, and socioeconomic status. Those adjustments shortened the gap between test results for people with teeth and people without, but those without teeth still performed slightly worse.

The connection between tooth loss and memory or walking speed was higher in individuals between 60 and 74 years old than in those who were age 75 or older.

The researchers suggest that tooth loss could be an early indicator of mental and physical decline in mature adults.

Researchers from University College London Epidemiology & Public Health conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on December 19, 2014, in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Previous studies have found that oral health can offer clues about a person’s overall health. The mouth contains a host of bacteria, and normally good oral health care is able to keep them under control. However, without proper oral care, these bacteria can reach high levels and eventually lead to oral infections. These infections may play in role in some diseases, including cardiovascular disease, endocarditis and diabetes.

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