Dementia affects millions of elderly people worldwide. Research has already documented the fact that people with dementia tend to have poor oral health. Could the opposite be true? In a recent press release, researchers have indicated that they believe there is a link between tooth loss and dementia.
Many studies have been done in the past that consistently demonstrates that people who have dementia will have poor dental health. Researchers at the University of Kentucky have found a link between tooth loss, oral disease and dementia.
Researchers reviewed medical and dental health data that had been accumulated for over 144 people from prior research studies. The data was collected in a scientifically sound manner by the UK College of Medicine’s Dept. of Anatomy and Neurobiology.
The data had been collected over a 12-year period. Researchers at the University of Kentucky analyzed this research, and combed through the participants past dental records, as well. The participants ranged in age from 78 to 98 years old.
“Of the participants who did not have dementia at the first examination (of annual exams over a 12-year period), those with few teeth – zero to nine – had an increased risk of developing dementia during the study, compared with those who had 10 or more teeth,” the researchers from the University of Kentucky wrote.
This caused researchers to question whether poor dental and oral health could lead to dementia. They acknowledged several reasons for the link between people who had lost their teeth and developed dementia.
Many people with poor oral health likely suffered from poor nutrition, chronic diseases, or infections during their lifetimes. Since mature teeth develop early, there is a significant chance that the illnesses, poor nutrition, and diseases occurred while they were young and their bodies were developing. Additional studies are needed to confirm the link between tooth loss and dementia. Researchers are hoping to do additional studies to investigate this link further.
Dementia refers to the loss of mental function in people as they age. While everyone loses some mental functioning as they age, people with dementia lose more than what can be attributed to normal aging. People with dementia can become disoriented, not know what day or time it is, forget what they ate for breakfast but remember events from their childhood. There is no cure for dementia.
Results of the University of Kentucky’s research team have been published in an article, which appears in the October issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA).