A team of researchers from NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing conducted an analysis that suggests tooth loss as a risk factor for cognitive impairment and dementia. Their analysis was also published in The Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine (JAMDA). The researchers also noticed that the risk for cognitive decline was not as significant in adults with dentures. This means that replacement of lost teeth via dentures seems to have a protective effect against cognitive decline and dementia.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that one in every six adults aged 65 or above tends to have lost all their teeth. Previous studies also hint positively towards a relationship between tooth loss and reduced cognitive functions. Dental professionals and scientists give various explanations for this link. One of the reasons can be that difficulty in chewing arises due to missing teeth. Inability to eat properly leads to nutritional deficiencies. Lack of essential vitamins and macro-nutrients contributes to changes in the brain.

The most common reason for tooth loss is gum disease, and recent advances in the health sector also show us a strong connection between gum diseases and cognitive decline. Loss of teeth due to poor oral hygiene and inability to opt for teeth replacement options could also be due to socioeconomic disadvantage, which is a risk factor for cognitive decline.

Poor oral health and cognitive decline are definitely linked, and a profound understanding of the two will benefit many people. Several cases of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are being diagnosed every day, and this gives an opportunity to improve oral health throughout one’s lifespan.

The researchers from NYU carried a meta-analysis with the help of longitudinal studies which focused on tooth loss and cognitive impairment. Fourteen studies were taken into consideration in this meta-analysis and involved over 34,074 adults and 4,689 people with diminished cognitive function.

In the analysis, it was seen that adults with tooth loss tend to have a 1.48 times greater risk of developing cognitive impairment and 1.28 times higher risk of being diagnosed with dementia.

A key observation also established that adults with lost teeth were more likely to suffer from cognitive impairment if they did not have dentures.  The analysis shows that the association between tooth loss and cognitive impairment was not significant in adults with dentures.

An analysis using a subset of eight studies was carried out with an aim to see if there was a “dose-response” relation between tooth loss and cognitive decline. It was seen that with each missing tooth, a 1.4 percent increased risk of cognitive impairment was seen and a 1.1 percent increased risk of being affected with dementia.

The findings of this analysis regarding the “dose-response” relationship between the number of lost teeth and reduced cognitive function also strengthen the association of tooth loss to cognitive impairment. These findings furthermore explain the importance of good oral hygiene in the maintenance of proper health.

Story Source: Materials provided by New York University.

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 DementiaJournal 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.