A new study from Japan has found that adults over the age of 60 who lose a lot of teeth are more likely to develop dementia than those who lose less. Researchers followed 1,566 Japanese adults who were dementia-free at the onset of the study for five years. The beginning of the study had participants divided into four categories based on how many of their own teeth they still had.
Over the course of the five years, 11.5 percent of participants developed some form of dementia, whether it was Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia. The risk of developing dementia was 62 percent higher for participants who had between ten and 19 of their original teeth than it was for those who had 20 or more. This risk increased to 82 percent in volunteers who had only one to nine of their original teeth.
Researchers theorized that the connection between tooth loss and an increased risk of dementia may be due to poor healthcare habits, as well as the possibility that tooth decay and gum disease could trigger inflammation that increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The study’s authors explained, “The findings emphasize the clinical importance of promoting and supporting opportunities for dental care and treatment, especially in terms of maintenance of teeth from an early age for reducing the risk of dementia in later life.”
Oral health has previously been linked to heart health, and this study further highlights the importance of good dental hygiene and its impact on overall wellness. Dr. Rosa Sancho, the head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, has explained that in terms of dementia, studies have shown that the health of the heart and the health of the brain are connected. She stated, “Good dental care is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but we do not know the extent to which it can affect our dementia risk. The current best evidence for reducing our risk of dementia is that what is good for the heart is good for the head.” Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes proper oral hygiene can positively affect your overall health and may reduce your risk of dementia.