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Tooth Loss and Dementia: Is There a Connection?

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

Did you know that good oral health, including dentures, may actually protect against cognitive decline?

It’s hard to imagine that something so small can actually have a huge impact on our bodies, minds and on our life. At Dentures Plus here in Lenexa, we want to remind you that dental cleanings and office visits are key to good oral health. That’s in addition to your proper home care hygiene of course!

Let’s talk about some new findings that have been made recently about Dementia and tooth loss. It shouldn’t take very long to go over, but before we dive into those details, let’s clarify our words.

Tooth Loss: Although tooth loss happens in all ages, it’s a common problem for older adults. Especially those who have struggled with their oral health all their life. Teeth can fall out for many different reasons, but the most common reason for tooth loss is periodontitis, which is an advanced form of gum disease that has gum tissue deterioration of periodontal ligaments, cementum, and alveolar bone.

Dementia: an issue commonly seen in older adults and is a term for a group of symptoms linked to brain deterioration. According to the CDC, over five million people over the age of 65 are said to be suffering from dementia and have problems with thinking, memory, and decision-making. Dementias include a variety of disorders, but Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent and well-studied form of dementia. There is no known cause of dementia at this time. However, risk factors include age, genes, race and ethnicity, smoking, blood pressure, high cholesterol, previous or current head injuries, and more.

“...the relationship between the number of missing teeth and risk of diminished cognitive function substantially strengthens the evidence linking tooth loss to cognitive impairment, and provides some evidence that tooth loss may predict cognitive decline.” -- Xiang Qi, a doctoral candidate at NYU Meyer

According to the new analysis led by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing published in JAMDA, tooth loss is a risk factor for cognitive impairment and dementia. You heard that right!

The interesting thing is, the risk was not that significant among the older adults who already wore dentures. You know what that means? If you need dental implants, don’t wait until later on in life. Schedule a consultation now rather than later. The older you grow, the risk of Dementia grows. If you lose more than one tooth, the risk of dementia and cognitive decline is higher. According to the CDC, about 1 in 6 adults have lost all of their teeth. For many people, we know that tooth loss can and will lead to a variety of problems including misaligned teeth, changes in bite, impediments with speech, and malnutrition from issues with eating. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 out of 6 adults above 65 years old lose their teeth. Previous studies also linked tooth loss to declining cognitive function.

Different research and studies have been done suggesting why or how losing teeth has anything to do with cognitive decline, and there are various explanations of how they can be connected. For example, one study found that lack of chewing power from tooth loss leads to decline in eating, which in turn actually leads to nutrition deficiencies. It was also suggested that lack of nutrition also led to changes in brain function. Researchers also suggested there’s a link between gum disease, cognitive decline, and tooth loss leading to lifelong socio-economic disadvantages.

Although this new information can sound very alarming, you’re in the right place. The good news is that we are living in amazing times with advanced technologies and methods that can help keep tooth loss at bay. And we have amazing patient education, teeth cleanings to help prevent gum diseases, implants and dentures to keep your mind at peace. We can do this together.

So what we have read so far is that:

  1. Malnutrition is caused by an inability to chew foods.

  2. There’s a connection between severe gum disease and cognitive decline.

  3. Lifelong socio-economic challenges are in turn risk factors for both tooth loss and cognitive decline.

  4. There are many ways Dr. Knewtson and staff can help with tooth loss and dementia.

Exactly how can dental implants help prevent cognitive decline? As previously mentioned, people with missing teeth were less likely to be affected by cognitive decline if they had dentures. This means that the prompt replacement of missing teeth can decrease cognitive decline risks. Even though the research study focused on adults with missing teeth with dentures, it is important to know that dentures are no longer the only choice for replacing missing teeth.

All in all, dental implants can restore normal chewing function and strength, versus dentures that can only partially restore chewing functions and aren’t as strong. Dental implants stimulate the jawbone. This maintains bone mass and prevents bone deterioration.

If you're at risk of tooth loss and don’t know where to start, give us a call to schedule your consultation in our beautiful state of the art facility in Lenexa. And make sure to book your regular dental cleaning or deep cleaning today! Our hygienists will have your smile shining in no time. See you soon!

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