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Dental researchers determine relationship between oral health habits and dementia

December 28, 2012

By Jean Williams, ADA News staff

Oral health habits may affect whether a person develops dementia later in life, according to a University of California study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Led by researcher Annlia Paganini-Hill, the study “Dentition, Dental Health Habits, and Dementia: The Leisure World Cohort Study” focused on residents of Leisure World, a Laguna Hills, Calif., retirement community, and measured their oral health habits between 1992 and 2010. Study participants were questioned about their number of natural teeth, dentures, number of dental visits and oral health habits.

Researchers followed 5,468 adults with no previous diagnosis of dementia and a median age of 81 and determined that participants who reported brushing their teeth less than once per day had up to a 65 percent greater risk of developing dementia than those who brushed three times daily. 

Results indicated that men who had impaired ability to chew and who did not wear dentures had a 91 percent greater risk of dementia than those who had a certain number of their own teeth remaining and who could chew. Women had a less significant similar risk.

Dementia status was assessed based on in-person evaluations, hospital records, questionnaires and death certificates.