Chewing Ability, Tooth Loss Might Predict Dementia Risk in Seniors

Seniors who maintain and protect their dental health—particularly their ability to chew—might also be able to take a bite out their chances for suffering loss of mental function, according to Swedish researchers.

Scientists from the Karolinska Institute’s department of dental medicine studied 557 people aged 77 and older. They assessed participants’ dental status, chewing ability and mental status and found that those who reported multiple teeth lost and difficulty with chewing hard food had significantly higher odds of experiencing cognitive impairment.

In the past, researchers have theorized that chewing encourages blood flow to the brain and people with few or no teeth will chew less, resulting is less blood flow to the brain and raising the risk of eventually having dementia.

The scientists in this study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, said that the association between chewing ability and developing cognitive impairments remained even after they took into account possible confounding factors, such as education, mental health, sex and age.

They also found that chewing ability was the key to reduced risk for dementia, whether participants had natural teeth or dentures.

Visit the ADA consumer website, MouthHealthy.org, for comprehensive information on how adults over age 60 can maintain their dental health and overcome the unique oral health issues they face. The website offers information on healthy habits, concerns, nutrition and much more.

Patients with special needs due to physical, medical, developmental or cognitive conditions require special consideration when receiving dental treatment. This can include people with autism, Alzheimer’s disease, Down syndrome, spinal cord injuries and countless other conditions or injuries that can make standard dental procedures more difficult.

Caring for a special needs patient takes compassion and understanding. While most dentists can accommodate for special needs patients, some dentists focus on meeting the needs and working with the limitations of these patients. If you or a loved one has special needs, talk with your dentist to discuss your options.

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