By Lauren Kent, CNN
Thu July 8, 2021
Maintaining good oral health habits, such as brushing and flossing, may help prevent cognitive impairment and dementia.
(CNN)Flossing your teeth isn't just important for keeping your dentist happy -- it may also protect against cognitive decline.
Good oral health habits like brushing and flossing may prevent cognitive impairment and dementia, according to a new analysis led by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing.
"Given the staggering number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and dementia each year, and the opportunity to improve oral health across the life span, it's important to gain a deeper understanding of the connection between poor oral health and cognitive decline," said Bei Wu, a professor in global health at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and the senior study author, in a statement.Researchers analyzed 14 studies on tooth loss and cognitive impairment conducted over an extended period of time, which involved a total of 34,074 adults and 4,689 cases of people with diminished cognitive function.The results showed that adults with more tooth loss had a 1.48 times higher risk of cognitive impairment and 1.28 times higher risk of dementia, even when other factors were controlled.And with each additional missing tooth, the risk of cognitive impairment grows, according to the analysis published in JAMDA: The Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.
Lisa, one of Dr. Nordland's staff members, shows how to use yarn for flossing.
Adults who experienced tooth loss were more likely to have cognitive decline if they did not have dentures, the new research also revealed.
"We need to think about increasing awareness of the importance of oral health, and we also need to think about preventive treatment and dentures," Wu told CNN.
Dentures are important because they allow patients to maintain a healthy diet, as well as provide "the confidence to smile naturally," according to Dr. James Wilson, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, who was not affiliated with the study.
"Being able to eat a normal diet is extremely important to a person's physical health," Wilson said via email. "The positive self-image that dentures provide a patient works to improve their mental health as well."