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, 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 “Your mouth changes as you age.”

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

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Common Conditions For ADULTS 55+

  • Gum disease
    This potentially serious condition occurs when the gum tissues surrounding teeth become infected because of a buildup of plaque on the teeth and gums. Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease and is recognizable by swollen, red or bleeding gums. Gum disease is a concern for older adults for a number of reasons, including plaque building up on teeth and gums from not developing proper oral health care habits earlier in life.

  • Tooth or root decay
    Even at 55-plus years, adults can still develop tooth or root decay if gum recession has occurred. It is important for older adults to effectively clean the gums, the teeth and exposed root surfaces to remove dental plaque and food debris.

  • Sensitive teeth
    At some point, we've all tossed back a nice, cold glass of water only to grimace at that sharp, tingling sensation in our teeth. A number of factors cause tooth sensitivity, including brushing too aggressively with a hard-bristled toothbrush, worn tooth enamel, and a cracked or fractured tooth.