A group of researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing show tooth loss as a risk factor for cognitive impairment and dementia through their new analysis. Their analysis between tooth loss and cognitive decline was also published by The Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine (JAMDA). However, their research also revealed that the risk for the cognitive decline was not as severe in adults with dentures. This suggests that early treatment of missing teeth via dentures and other dental prostheses does have a protective effect against cognitive impairment.
One out of every six adults over the age of 65 has lost all their teeth, according to the data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to the recent analysis at NYU, many past studies have shown an association between teeth loss and cognitive impairment. There are many explanations as to why this happens; let us discuss one such in brief. Loss of teeth leads to chewing difficulties, which in turn leads to poor nutrition. Poor nutrition and a diet deficient in essential vitamins and minerals change the brain, giving rise to dementia and cognitive impairment.
In addition, tooth loss may also reflect poor socioeconomic conditions, which is also shown to be a risk factor for cognitive decline. Dr. Bei Wu, the study’s senior author, stresses the importance of understanding the relationship between poor health and cognitive decline due to the rise in Alzheimer’s and dementia cases.
The team of researchers from NYU conducted a meta-analysis with the help of longitudinal studies of tooth loss and cognitive impairment. Fourteen studies were included, which saw the participation of over 34,074 adults and 4,689 people with diminished cognitive function.
The analysis concluded that adults with more tooth loss had a 1.48 times higher risk of developing cognitive impairment and a 1.28 times higher risk of being diagnosed with dementia.
On the contrary, it was also seen that adults with missing teeth were more likely to have cognitive impairment if they did not have dentures compared to those who did. A further examination of the analysis also revealed that the association between tooth loss and cognitive impairment was not as vital in people with dentures.
One part of the study included an analysis using a subset of eight studies to see if there was a “dose-response” relationship between tooth loss and cognitive decline. Meaning, the researchers wanted to see if the risk for cognitive decline increases with an increase in the number of lost teeth. Their results confirmed that with each lost tooth, there was a 1.4 percent higher risk of cognitive impairment and a 1.1 percent increased risk of being affected with dementia.
By seeing the results of these findings, it is no wonder that dental professionals worldwide stress so much on maintaining good oral health and practicing excellent oral hygiene.
Journal Reference: Xiang Qi, Zheng Zhu, Brenda L. Plassman, Bei Wu. Dose-Response Meta-Analysis on Tooth Loss With the Risk of Cognitive Impairment and Dementia. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 2021; DOI: 10.1016/j.jamda.2021.05.009
DISCLAIMER: The advice offered is intended to be informational only and generic in nature. It is in no way offering a definitive diagnosis or specific treatment recommendations for your particular situation. Any advice offered is no substitute for proper evaluation and care by a qualified dentist.