Dr. Georgios Tsakos, of the University College London’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health in the U.K., recently published findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society linking senior tooth loss to physical and mental decline.
Dr. Tsakos and his coauthors analyzed data from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA) that included more than 3,100 adults, age 60 or older, who lived in England. Participants were tested in both memory and walking speed and researchers than compared the results between seniors who had some of their natural teeth and those who had none. Those participants who lost all of their natural teeth performed 10% worse in both memory and walking speed.
While smoking, drinking, socioeconomic status, gender, age, and depression seemed to be inconsequential to tooth loss and poor memory, total tooth loss and slower walking speed remained substantial. According to Dr. Tsakos, “Tooth loss could be used as an early marker of mental and physical decline in older age, particularly among 60-74 year-olds.”
The researchers further concluded it was likely that socioeconomic status was tied to mental and physical decline and tooth loss. Although tooth loss in the United States has been declining for more than 50 years according to the American Association for Dental Research and it is a rare condition in higher-income households, it disproportionately affects Americans living in poverty.
Discovering tooth loss in seniors can allow dentists and doctors to spot risks for further physical and mental decline and work to slow that decline. Dr. Tsakos suggests recognizing issues that can be changed related to tooth loss “such as lifestyle and psychosocial factors.”
One of the best ways to prevent tooth loss is to continue to visit your dentist twice a year for cleanings and to catch any tooth decay early. Please contact us to set up an appointment to keep your teeth healthy.