Research has suggested that oral health is linked to general and systemic health disorders, with several studies linking poor oral health to an increased risk of a host of health conditions, from diabetes and heart disease, to dementia. It may seem odd to link tooth loss to dementia, but studies have shown that people with poor oral health are more likely to experience tooth loss.
Researchers from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and Dentistry analysed data from 144 participants in the ‘Nun Study’, which involved Catholic nuns from the School Sisters of Notre Dame; the study analysed ageing and Alzheimer’s among the sisters and found that sisters who had lost teeth had a higher chance of developing dementia. The study participants were aged between 75 and 98 years old.
Of the 144 participants, those with few teeth (between zero and 9) had a higher chance of developing dementia than those who had more than 10 teeth. The study was published in the Journal of the American Dental Association.
Another study, which was carried out by researchers from the University of Southern California in partnership with other academic associations in California, the Errol Carroll Trust Fund, the US National Institutes of Health and the Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, aimed to determine whether there was a link between oral health and dementia risk.
The study, which was carried out over a period of almost 30 years, followed 5.468 people in a retirement community, known as Leisure World, in Southern California. The participants, with an average age of 82 years old, were asked questions about their oral health and underwent dental checks to determine whether there was a link between oral health and mental health. Researchers found that men who were unable to chew properly as a result of having few of their natural teeth remaining were at greater risk of developing dementia than those who had more of their natural teeth intact.
The study also found that females that were consistently diligent with their oral hygiene routine were less likely to develop dementia than women who didn’t clean their teeth twice a day or more. Men who went to the dentist on a regular basis had a lower risk of dementia than men who did not attend regular dental appointments.
Preventing oral health diseases
The studies are not sufficient to say that poor oral health causes dementia, but there is evidence to suggest that poor oral health may be a contributing factor to dementia risk; experts have called for further research. What is apparent is that oral health is a lot more important than many people may assume; not only does daily brushing protect your teeth and gums, but it also reduces your risk of systemic health problems. There have now been several studies, which support the notion that oral health influences general health and it is perhaps more important than ever before that people understand the importance of oral hygiene and regular dental checks.
Dental experts recommend brushing the teeth twice a day for 2 minutes each time using fluoride toothpaste, flossing and rinsing with mouthwash on a regular basis and keeping an eye on your sugar intake. Try to avoid eating sugary snacks and drinking sugary or acidic drinks between meals and leave brushing your teeth for an hour after eating. It is essential to visit your dentist for regular check-ups; most dentists advise 6 monthly check-ups.
Research into the impact of oral health on dementia is ongoing, but it is of paramount importance to take good care of your teeth and gums. Gum disease is the leading cause of adult tooth loss, but it can be prevented very easily and by looking after your teeth and gums, you may also be reducing your risk of life-threatening illnesses.
Originally posted 2013-05-29 11:55:25.