Recently, researchers published a study analyzing the effects that tooth loss and periodontal disease have on cognitive decline. The outcome discovered a possible link that’s sure to give dentists and patients a cause for increased vigilance in dental health.
Researchers combed through dental records of male veterans who had enrolled in a VA dental study in the 60’s and 70’s, and compared them to cognitive tests the subjects underwent. These tests, one the Mini-Mental State Examination and the other a spatial copying test, were administered along with medical and dental exams every three years. The result? For each tooth lost per decade, the risk of deteriorating test results from the cognitive assessments increased 8 to 10 percent. People with all their natural teeth performed better on average than those with tooth loss, but those with more cavities usually tested poorly.
One doctor conducting the study suggested inflammation as a likely cause of these issues. Periodontal disease, which is deeply intertwined with tooth loss and dental decay, introduces inflammatory proteins into the blood. Other medical research has already linked higher inflammation levels with cognitive decline and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
While the association between tooth loss, gum disease, and cognition hasn’t been clearly defined as yet, the circumstantial evidence is piling up. There are more reasons than ever to take good care of your natural teeth and ensure they stay strong and healthy for the years to come. Brushing and flossing every day goes a long way to achieving that goal, as well as regular visits to your dentist’s office. There, your dental team can create a customized plan to keep gum disease and tooth loss at bay.