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Chew on this: Dental health and senior dementia may be related

September 21, 2012
by pamela tabar
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Almost 18 years of data may suggest a relationship between poor dental health and dementia, according to a study published in the August issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The California-based study began in 1992, when 5,468 seniors with an average age of 81 and no dementia diagnosis were questioned about their dental habits, including brushing, flossing, mouthwash use and denture use. The study tracked the seniors for the next 18 years, noting any changes in dental habits and/or cognitive state.

By the end of the study in 2010, 21 percent of the study group had developed dementia. Men with poor chewing function (through a lack of natural teeth) had a 91 percent higher risk of cognitive impairment, although a similar association was not found in women. However, women who didn’t brush their teeth daily had a 65 percent greater risk of dementia than women who brushed more than twice a day.

Those who exhibited the fewest signs of dementia also had at least one of the following oral health observations:

  • Brushed their teeth several times per day
  • Had at least 16 natural teeth or wore dentures
  • Visited a dentist at least once per year

The research, classified as a cohort study, was designed to assess if relationships seemed possible between oral hygiene and dementia, and not to establish de facto causality.

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