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In a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers analyzed the link between oral health on cognitive health. Although scientists have known about the association between these two topics for some time, they are still uncertain on how the two are correlated.
Researchers analyzed 1,412 studies from January 1993 to March 2013, and found that 56 of the studies were best suited to their criteria. Of the 56 studies, 40 were cross-sectional (made comparisons at a single point in time) and 16 were longitudinal (made comparisons over time). Of the 16 longitudinal studies, 11 looked at the effect of oral health on changes in cognitive health or incidence of dementia, while the other 5 studies examined the effects of cognitive health on oral health.
The oral health information included in the studies often consisted of the number of teeth, periodontal and caries problems, as well as denture usage. Cognitive health was most often evaluated by the Mini-Mental State Examination test or was characterized by a dementia diagnosis.
The research team found that some studies observed health measures, such as number of teeth and periodontal disease, that were associated with a greater risk of cognitive decline or incidence of dementia, though not all studies could confirm these findings. Cognitive decline was periodically associated with a greater loss of teeth or more decayed teeth, although again findings were inconsistent. At the end of the analysis, the researchers agreed that methodological limitations could explain the inconsistent findings and that additional research is needed.
These links could be explained by other factors as well. For example, an individual suffering with dementia may not remember to take care of his or her personal hygiene, thereby negatively impacting his or her oral health. Conversely, an individual could have poor oral health associated with a systemic disease such as diabetes, which is also associated with poor cognitive health.
Either way, it is important to keep those gums clean! Gum disease has often been linked to heart disease, and scientists recognize the link between heart and brain health. Flossing daily has also been known to prolong healthspan. The Cognitive Therapeutics team recommends brushing your teeth and flossing twice daily for optimal oral health.
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