With an increasing number of people, especially the elderly, having cognitive impairment (CI) and dementia, there is a strong need to narrow down the cues that lead to these debilitating diseases. In the United States alone, there are around 6 million people living with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, and the number is predicted to touch a staggering 14 million by 2060. On the other hand, cognitive impairment or subjective cognitive decline is quite common, especially in people who live by themselves, with some states having up to 50% population with some symptoms.
One of the surprising associations of both dementia (mostly associated with Alzheimer’s) and cognitive impairment is tooth loss. While it might sound absurd that losing teeth can cause someone to develop dementia or CI, research has shown a positive relationship between the two. There are multiple studies that have shown this resemblance. For instance, research led by NYU concluded that people who had tooth loss had a 1.48% higher chance of getting these diseases, especially in their late ages. The study also hinted that the early use of dentures has a somewhat protective effect on people who have tooth loss. Other studies carried out in Japan and Saudi Arabia also suggested similar findings.
You might be thinking what is the relationship between the two? Well as for now we don’t know the exact mechanism but it is partly associated with the stress of losing teeth. Teeth along with other facial features like tongue, lips, and facial skin are important aspects of a person’s appearance. Having some problems with teeth, especially being edentulous denotes the loss of sexual characteristics, increasing the feeling of growing old, and looking unattractive.
These feelings have various adverse psychological effects on a person, with some people even having brain loss. A 2018 research showed that people with teeth loss or edentulous people have decreased gray matter (type of brain tissue) in their brains, especially in the hippocampus, caudate nucleus, and temporal lobe of the right hemisphere. These areas of the brain are thought to have a crucial role in developing and retrieving memories. The caudate nucleus is especially associated with cognitive development while the hippocampus mainly functions as the memory maker of our brain
It does make intuitive sense that damage to these areas can lead to dementia and cognitive impairment. One of the reasons is the psychological trauma that is caused by the loss of teeth. While more studies are needed to make certain connections between tooth loss, dementia, and CI, it is evident that tooth loss in adults should be properly taken care of by a dentist to avoid these devastating conditions.
We are passionate about caring for our patients. To reduce your risk of dementia contact us today at (702) 257-9090 and learn about our tooth loss solutions.