Regular readers know that cognitive impairment has my total attention as three of my family members suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and/or plain dementia. While I have written a number of posts covering various aspects of cognition and cognitive impairment I confess surprise upon learning of a correlation between losing teeth and diminishing mental facilities.
The increase of cognitive impairment and its pathologic correlates, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, in aging populations is progressing worldwide and creating a significant burden on health systems. About 25 million people suffer from dementia worldwide, with an incidence of 4.6 million per year. According to follow-up studies, annualized rates of conversion from mild cognitive impairment to dementia range from 4% to 25%.
Deaths from Alzheimer’s increased 71 percent since 2000, and it remains the only cause of death that cannot be prevented, slowed or treated. In 2016 an estimated 700,000 people will die with Alzheimer’s, meaning they will die after having developed the disease, the Alzheimer’s Association reported.
Better insight into the nature and extent of the association between oral health and cognitive function is of great importance since it could lead to preventive interventions for cognitive performance. Therefore, the objective of this review was to systematically examine if tooth loss leads to cognitive impairment and its most prevalent pathologic correlate (dementia).
The International and American Associations for Dental Research (IADR/AADR) have published an article titled “Tooth Loss Increases the Risk of Diminished Cognitive Function: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis” in the OnlineFirst portion of the JDR Clinical & Translational Research. In it, Cerutti-Kopplin et al systematically assessed the association between oral health and cognitive function in adult populations.
Based on the published literature, the results of this study show that the risk for cognitive impairment and dementia increases with loss of teeth. This information adds to the evidence showing links between oral and general health and suggests that oral health strategies aimed to preserve teeth may be important in reducing risk of systemic disease.
Emerging evidence suggests that oral health is associated with cognitive function. This review aims to systematically assess this association in adult populations via prospective cohort study designs. Eligible study reports were identified by searching the MEDLINE (via Ovoid), EMBASE, PsycoINFO, and Cochrane Library databases. Pooled hazard ratios (HRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated with a random effects model. From 1,251 identified articles, 10 were included in the systematic review and 8 in the meta-analysis. Random effects analysis showed, with statistically low heterogeneity, that individuals with suboptimal dentition were at a 20% higher risk for developing cognitive decline and dementia than those with optimal dentition. Studies on the association between periodontal disease and cognitive status showed conflicting results. Within the limits of the quality of published evidence, this meta-analysis lends further support to the hypothesis that tooth loss is associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment and dementia.
The entire study is available online.
To expand your information on the brain, please check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain and Exercise Benefits).