Tooth Loss Linked to Decline in Mobility, Memory

In recent years, a growing amount of research has found compelling links between an individual’s oral health and his or her overall long-term health. Studies have found compelling evidence that suggests poor oral health increases an individuals’ risk of a number of chronic illnesses, including heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Now a new study has found further evidence that suggests poor oral health may have links to advanced physical decline.

A study conducted by researchers at the University College London suggests the memory and walking speeds of adults who have lost all of their teeth decline more quickly when compared to individuals who possess some or all of their teeth.

The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, examined over 3,000 adults over the age of 60 who participated in the English Longitudinal study of Aging and compared their results in tests that gauged both walking speed and memory. The results of these tests found that individuals with no remaining permanent teeth performed roughly 10 percent worse in both walking and memory tests when compared to individuals with teeth.

Understanding the Data

The link between memory and tooth loss was explained after the results of the study were adjusted for a number of factors, including physical health, preexisting health conditions, sociodemographic factors and health behaviors like depression, drinking, smoking and socioeconomic factors. Even after considering these factors, researchers still determined that individuals without teeth still walked more slowly than individuals with teeth remaining.

The links between seniors in the U.K. losing all of their teeth and suffering from poor memory and declined physical function 10 years later was more apparent in seniors between the ages of 60 to 74 than in those over the age of 75.

Based on these findings, researchers believe that tooth loss could serve as an early marker of physical and mental decline in seniors, especially among those between the ages of 60 to 74. Researchers have concluded from the study that the common causes of tooth loss and physical and mental decline are often linked to socioeconomic status, which serves to highlight the importance of expanded social determinants like wealth and education to improve the general and oral health of societies poorest individuals.

No matter what the link between tooth loss and decline in function, understanding that excessive tooth loss presents an opportunity for early identification of adults with an elevated risk of quicker physical and mental decline later in life is paramount, according to researchers who highlight the easy changes that can be made lifestyle and psychological factors that can influence oral health.