Posted February 13, 2017
As people age, they may begin to feel like they are not thinking as quickly or as clearly as when they were younger. While some changes occur naturally with aging, researchers believe there could be a link between dental health and cognitive decline.
Influence on medical problems
Several years ago, medical professionals identified a link between dental and medical problems. Researchers discovered that untreated tooth decay could increase the formation of unhealthy bacteria that could enter the bloodstream and contribute to dementia, stroke and heart disease. However, at that time scientists could not find a direct connection between cognitive and dental health.
Impact on cognitive decline
Last year the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society published new research exploring the connection between dental and cognitive health. Scientists at the Duke University School of Nursing examined 56 research studies conducted between 1993 and 2013, reviewing the dental health of older people and changes in their cognitive health including dementia. They discovered several possible links:
- Older people struggling with cognitive issues, and especially those with dementia, tend to have higher rates of poor dental health.
- Poor nutrition and systemic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, may impact dental health and could be associated with cognitive decline.
- People with missing teeth, tooth decay or gum disease had higher incidences of dementia or poor cognitive health.
Duke researchers acknowledge their research is not conclusive. Additional study is needed to understand the exact relationship between factors identified in this report to determine whether poor dental health can contribute to cognitive health.
Learn more about how dental health may affect your body by reading this blog.