Recent research shows tooth loss as a risk factor for cognitive impairment and dementia. With each lost tooth, the risk for cognitive decline grows, as found by a unique analysis conducted by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing. These findings were also published by JAMDA: The Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. It was also seen that the risk was not significant among denture wearers. This suggests that treatment of lost teeth via dentures may protect older adults against cognitive decline.

According to the data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every 6 adults, with an age of 65 or older have lost all of their teeth. Past studies have also established a connection between missing teeth and reduced cognitive function. Many explanations can be given for this connection. For example, one reason says that compromised chewing, which happens due to lost teeth, contributes to nutritional deficiencies, and this leads to changes in the brain.

A significant number of researchers also point towards a connection between gum diseases (a common cause of missing teeth) and reduce cognitive function. People with socioeconomic disadvantage are also prone to tooth loss and cognitive decline.

Many people are being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia each year. A deeper understanding of missing teeth, poor oral health, and cognitive decline will give us the opportunity to improve oral health across the lifespan.

Senior author Dr.Wu and her colleagues carried out a meta-analysis using longitudinal studies of tooth loss and cognitive impairment. They included 14 studies in their analysis which saw participation total of 34,074 adults and 4,689 cases of people with diminished cognitive function.

The analysis concluded that adults with teeth loss had 1.48 times higher risk of developing cognitive impairment and a 1.28 times higher risk of being diagnosed with dementia, even after controlling for other factors.

However, it was also seen that adults with missing teeth were more at risk of cognitive impairment if they did not have dentures (23.8 percent) compared to those with dentures (16.9 percent). Further analysis showed that the association between tooth loss and cognitive impairment was not significant when participants were denture-wearers.

Researchers at NYU, also performed an analysis utilizing a subset of eight studies to determine if there was a “dose-response” association between tooth loss and cognitive impairment. Simply put, the researchers were keen to see if a greater number of missing teeth were, in fact, linked with a higher risk for cognitive decline. The findings of the analysis confirmed the relationship. It was seen that each additional missing tooth was associated with a 1.4 percent increased risk of cognitive impairment and a 1.1 percent increased risk of being diagnosed with dementia.

Tooth loss and loss of cognitive functions are intimately related, just like many other systemic diseases are linked to oral health. These findings too strengthen the importance of maintaining good oral health and practicing excellent oral hygiene.

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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.