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Older men to keep an eye on oral health

Happy old man

New research has discovered a possible link between tooth loss and blindness in older men

Results of the study published in the Journal of Periodontology reveal men are more than four times as likely to suffer from age-related blindness if they have lost the bone supporting the teeth compared to the general population.

Although bone loss was seen more often in those suffering with age-related blindness, there was still a significant increase in the number of men affected once common risk factors between the disease and poor oral health had been taken into account.

The study also showed the relationship was not seen in women.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common eye condition among people age 50 and over, and is a leading cause of blindness. It gradually destroys the macula, the part of the eye that provides sharp, central vision needed for seeing objects clearly.

Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, discussed the possible implications for almost half a million people in the UK suffering from AMD2.

He said: ‘It is well-documented that you can reduce the risk of getting AMD by quitting smoking, moderating alcohol intake and having a healthy, balanced diet. These are all lifestyle factors that would be also lead to poor oral health, so the results of this study are particularly interesting, given they have all been accounted for.

‘What the study does show is how important it is to maintain good gum health. More teeth are lost through long-standing gum disease than through tooth decay.

‘Those who may be at risk of going blind may find their teeth are naturally looser than some of their younger counterparts, but ignoring the problem is not the answer. Untreated gum disease can lead to bacteria getting into the bloodstream and causing heart and respiratory problems.

With the number of people over 60 set to increase, it is particularly important for older people to brush twice a day for two minutes at a time using a fluoride toothpaste and to clean in between the teeth at least once a day with interdental brushes or dental floss. Use of mouthwashes to help prevent plaque build-up or products specifically developed for dry mouth can also help them maintain optimum oral care and prevent problems.’

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