Improved oral health along with regular visits to the dentist could slow cognitive decline as people age.
A new study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, looked through previous studies published between 1993 and 2013 to find a link between oral health and the cognitive status for older patients.
It found that periodontal conditions are associated with poorer cognitive status or cognitive decline, but suggested the evidence was not enough to suggest that one causes the other.
‘Clinical evidence suggests that the frequency of oral health problems increases significantly in cognitively impaired older people, particularly those with dementia,’ said Dr Wu, of Duke University’s School of Nursing in the USA and who undertook the survey.
‘There is not enough evidence to date to conclude that a causal association exists between cognitive function and oral health.
‘For future research, we recommend that investigators gather data from larger and more population representative samples, use standard cognitive assessments and oral health measures, and use more sophisticated data analyses.’
Some studies found that oral health measures such as the number of teeth, the number of cavities, and the presence of periodontal disease were associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline or dementia, while others studies were unable to confirm any association.
Researchers were also quick to note that findings based on the number of teeth or cavities are conflicting, and limited studies suggest that periodontal conditions such as gingivitis are associated with poorer cognitive status or cognitive decline.