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13 March 2019

Does cognitive function affect oral health during aging?

In a Community Dentistry & Oral Epidemiology study, poor cognitive function in older adults was associated with poorer oral health and higher risk of tooth loss in later life.

Does cognitive function affect oral health during aging?
Does cognitive function affect oral health during aging?

The joint Kings’ College London, Leeds University and New York University study included 4,416 UK adults aged 50 years or older whose cognitive function was assessed in 2002-2003. Participants then reported the number of teeth they had remaining and their general oral health status in 2014-2015.

When cognitive function score was categorised into quintiles, there was a clear gradient association between cognitive function and tooth loss. People in the lowest quintile reflecting poorer cognitive function had a 39 percent higher odds of tooth loss than those in the highest quintile. A similar magnitude and direction of association was evident between cognitive function and self-rated oral health.

With the current emphasis on prevention and care for vulnerable groups including older adults, it is important that we aim to do our best to achieve improvements in oral health for all ages. This study supports others in recognising the close links between cognitive function and oral health in older adults.

Co-author Dr Mark Ide, Reader in Periodontology at the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences

The findings suggest that interventions which stabilise or improve changes in cognitive function could potentially improve oral health and reduce the risk of tooth loss in the ageing population.

Dr Mark Ide

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Mark Ide

Joint Associate Dean for Postgraduate Taught Education