22 Dec

New study links poor oral health to increased dementia risk

A new study suggests that poor oral health can increase the risk of developing dementia substantially.

Researchers found that missing teeth correlate with elevated dementia risk. Losing a tooth increases the risk by 1.1% but people who have no natural teeth remaining have a 40% higher risk of developing dementia and a 54% higher risk of cognitive impairment. The findings of the study have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association (JAMDA).

The team discovered that cognitive impairment and tooth loss were linked, even when other variables were taken into account.

In light of the findings, the researchers believe that preventative measures could help to lower both the risk of dental disease and dementia. Tooth loss is commonly linked to poor oral hygiene and high sugar consumption.

Practising good dental hygiene, moderating the intake of sugary and acidic foods and keeping up to date with routine dental appointments can lower the risk of decay, gum disease and oral infections significantly.

Researchers suggest that promoting good oral health could play a role in lowering rates of dementia. As well as encouraging people to brush their teeth and attend dental checks, the research team also recommends improving access to fluoridated water. Fluoride is a mineral, which is added to water supplies in some parts of the country. It helps to protect the teeth against decay by strengthening the enamel. Fluoride is also added to toothpaste.

Replacing missing teeth can also have a positive impact. Researchers found that fitting dentures shortly after losing the natural teeth decreased the risk of cognitive decline in people with a large number of missing teeth. Dentures are prosthetic teeth, which can be used to replace full arches or a small number of teeth. They are designed to look and function like healthy, natural teeth.