Study: Tooth Loss Linked to Slowing Mind and Body

The memory and walking ability of older adults who have lost all of their teeth decline faster than those who still have at least some of their own teeth, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

“Tooth loss could be used as an early marker of mental and physical decline in older age, particularly among 60-74 year-olds,” said lead author Georgios Tsakos, professor of epidemiology and public health at University College London, in a college news release. He added that common causes of tooth loss and mental and physical decline are “often linked to socioeconomic status,” such as education and wealth.

The study from researchers at UCL looked at 3,166 adults aged 60 or over and compared their performance in tests of memory and walking speed. The results found that people with none of their own teeth performed about 10 percent worse in both tests than people with teeth.

"Regardless of what is behind the link between tooth loss and decline in function, recognizing excessive tooth loss presents an opportunity for early identification of adults at higher risk of faster mental and physical decline later in their life. There are many factors likely to influence this decline, such as lifestyle and psychosocial factors, which are amenable to change," Dr. Tsakos said.

According to Mouthhealthy.org, the ADA’s consumer website, one common misconception is that losing your teeth is inevitable as you age.
“If cared for properly, your teeth can last a lifetime,” according to Mouthhealthy.org. “Your mouth changes as you age.”

For more information on oral health for senior citizens, visit MouthHealthy.org and search for “aging and dental health.”

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