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The Link Between Oral Health and Mental Health

While there are still questions about causality, the latest research seems to indicate a link between poor oral health and age-related mental decline. In a new report from Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, investigators reviewed studies on oral health and cognition published over 20 years, from 1993 through 2013.

While emphasizing that there is not enough evidence to prove a direct link between oral health and cognitive abilities, some of the studies found that oral health indicators, such as the number of teeth, the number of cavities, and the presence of gum disease, was associated with a higher risk of mental decline or dementia in older patients.

Again, it must be said that there was no proof of a causal link between oral health and a decline in cognitive abilities and, in fact, some of the studies reviewed found no association between the two.

However, in an article published at, review author Bei Wu was quoted as saying, "[Overall], clinical evidence suggests that the frequency of oral health problems increases significantly in cognitively impaired older people, particularly those with dementia."

The article then goes on to speculate as to the possible causes of the linkage between oral health and mental degradation in older adults: 1) "that a shared inflammatory pathway is common to both cognitive decline and oral disease," or 2) a much simpler explanation, that patients with dementia are prone to forget a previously learned task, such as brushing their teeth; a condition known as apraxia.

While further research is necessary to discover the causal link between declining oral health and declining mental acuity, the fact that any link exists is illuminating – and argues strongly in favor of teaching and learning oral health techniques from the earliest age possible.

The doctors and staff at The Colorado Center for Implant and Prosthetic Dentistry are available to help you determine effective solutions to all of your dental problems. If you would like more information from your Littleton area Prosthodontist, please call to make an appointment today.

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