Lose your teeth, lose your mind

Apr 30, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Ever have a senior moment? Then you might be missing some teeth, too.

Researchers at Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM) link and periodontal disease to cognitive decline in one of the largest and longest prospective studies on the topic to date, released in this month’s issue of the .

Dr. Elizabeth Krall Kaye looked for patterns in dental records from 1970 to 1973 to determine if periodontal disease and tooth loss predicted whether people did well or poorly on cognitive tests. She found that for each tooth lost per decade, the risk of doing poorly increased approximately eight to 10 percent.

More cavities usually meant lower cognition too. People with no tooth loss tended to do better on the tests.

Dr. Kaye says inflammation is a possible cause, noting that other studies found higher levels of inflammation markers in people with Alzheimer’s. “Periodontal disease and caries are infectious diseases that introduce inflammatory proteins into the blood,” she says. “There’s a lot of circumstantial evidence that inflammation raises your risk of and it could be that gum inflammation is one of the sources.”

The men studied—veterans living in the Boston metropolitan area—enrolled in the VA Dental Longitudinal Study in the late 1960s and early 70s and came back for medical, dental, and cognitive exams, which started in 1993, every three years.

Participants took two cognitive tests. The first, the Mini-Mental State Examination, tests orientation, attention, calculation, recall, language, and motor skills. The second, a spatial copying test, asks participants to copy nine geometric designs ranging from easy to complex.

“The ability to copy is one of the things people lose as they lose cognitive ability,” Dr. Kaye says.

Physicians might want to think about the dental health of their patients who test poorly, according to Dr. Kaye. “The findings should also give dentists yet another reason to prevent tooth loss and and encourage patients to do as much as they can to prevent dental disease,” she says.

Explore further: Keeping that weight loss resolution

More information: The study, Tooth Loss and Periodontal Disease Predict Poor Cognitive Function in Older Men, is available online at www3.interscience.wiley.com/cg… /123339485/HTMLSTART .

Provided by Boston University

3.8 /5 (21 votes)

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User comments : 8

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NotAsleep
not rated yet Apr 30, 2010
I wonder how "wisdom teeth" factor into this study
HaveYouConsidered
4.4 / 5 (7) Apr 30, 2010
A correlation does not prove causation. The loss of cognitive ability and tooth loss may both be due to some third trigger, or more than one trigger. For example, eating too much sugar. I'm not claiming that's the true cause; merely stating that these studies have holes in them and one can't jump to the "obvious" conclusion.

But don't trust me--I've got a tooth missing.
RTT
4 / 5 (4) Apr 30, 2010
And there is the fact that some people have a higher resistance to tooth decay and gum disease.
So your comment about a possible third trigger has other possibilities as well.
Megadeth312
4 / 5 (4) Apr 30, 2010
I agree with HaveYouConsidered, and I'm just a bit tired of people making these types of assumptions.

"A correlation does not prove causation."

my thoughts exactly, why don't people seem to get that?? They should take these results as a sign that they are missing something.
ScientistAmauterEnthusiast
1 / 5 (1) Apr 30, 2010
Per decade over how many decades? maybe it is simply a result of aging. I agree with HaveYouConsidered also.
fixer
5 / 5 (1) Apr 30, 2010
Well now, since peridontal disease is the result of bacterial attack, it suggests that an antibacterial therapy that fixes tooth decay may also benefit Alzheimer’s patients too!
This link should give you "food for thought"
http://bacteriali...alivary/
magpies
1 / 5 (1) May 01, 2010
I KEEP MY TEAATH!!!
Sinister181
May 01, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
VOR
5 / 5 (1) May 03, 2010
well the point is that with gum disease, losing your teeth is the LEAST thing to be worried about. Its the rest of you, like your heart, brain, etc that are at great risk. Those gum pathogens are NASTY and travel to other parts of the body. Dont miss the point by arguing over what the study shows and doesnt show. For practical purposes it doesnt matter if gum disease and Alzheimers are ultimately caused by some third thing. The evidence is clear. Gum disease is a big, real, threat to way more than your teeth.

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