Dental News

Tooth Loss May Be Linked to Lower Cognitive Function

January 25, 2014

Prevent tooth loss and its consequences with proper oral care

Cleanings & examsResearchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have concluded that individuals with tooth loss or advanced periodontitis may be at risk for cognitive decline. The researchers administered word recall, word fluency, and digit-symbol substitution tests to over 11,000 individuals between the ages of 45 and 64. About a quarter of these individuals had no teeth at all, and half were missing some but not all of their teeth. The individuals with no teeth scored lower on all of the cognitive testing than their peers with some or all of their teeth. In addition, a correlation was noted between extent of gingival bleeding or number of teeth lost and lower scores on the digit-symbol substitution and word fluency tests.

Are You At Risk for Tooth Loss?

About 69 percent of adults between age 35 and 44 have lost at least one permanent tooth due to accident, tooth decay, or gum disease. If you don’t take good care of your teeth at home and visit the dentist for regular cleanings & exams, you could be putting yourself at increased risk for tooth loss due to decay or gum disease. Some studies have shown that smoking, diabetes, obesity, and drymouth can also heighten your risk for tooth loss.

How Gum Disease Causes Tooth Loss

Gum disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss among American adults. When teeth aren’t brushed properly, plaque bacteria build up on them and create toxic byproducts that irritate and inflame nearby gum tissues. This condition is known as gingivitis, and is often accompanied by symptoms like bleeding, redness, and pain in the gums. If gingivitis is not corrected, it can develop into periodontitis as the gums begin to recede from the teeth, leaving pockets that further harbor bacteria and infection. The next stage of gum disease is advanced periodontitis. During this stage, tissues continue to be destroyed and eventually teeth lose the gum, bone, and ligament structures needed to hold them in place. Without treatment, advanced periodontitis can cause teeth to loosen and eventually fall out.

Preventing Tooth Loss

The good news is that all stages of gum disease can be prevented with proper oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist. If you have already developed gum disease, see your dentist immediately. Treatments are available, and the sooner you act the better your chances of saving your teeth.

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