The study, specifically related to memory decline, examined the participant’s from a series of cognitive assessments and their ability to recall words.
The results showed that people with fewer teeth scored lower than those with more teeth in the first examination and declined far quicker after further testing in later years.
Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, says this study adds to a growing list of evidence of the wide ranging systemic links relating to poor oral health.
Dr Carter said: “Heart disease, strokes, diabetes, lung disease and pre and low weight babies have all been found to be linked with poor dental health. This latest research could highlight yet another worrying risk factor of having poor oral health.
“Previous studies have suggested there might be a link between a low number of teeth and Alzheimer’s disease and baseline dementia. The case towards a possible link between poor memory and tooth loss is growing ever stronger.”
Participants were aged between 75 and 98 years old and were mostly of a high educational background – 85 percent had a bachelor’s degree or greater while 88 percent were teachers by profession.
They were assessed by the Delayed Word Recall test, which involved the individuals being presented with ten words, waiting five minutes and then testing them for how many they could remember.
Each participant had their score recorded in three consecutive years.
Results showed that participants with more than ten teeth achieved an average recall of 5.5 words at age 75 while those who had less than nine teeth only averaged three. By the age of 90 those who had more than ten teeth still averaged 5.5 words, however, those who had between zero and nine teeth fell dramatically and could only average a recall of less than two words.
Low levels of education were also associated with missing teeth. While only 14 of the 144 participants were of a lower education, 86 percent of these individuals had less than nine teeth, compared the 30 percent of those with a better education.
Dr Carter added: “It is vital that we improve the level of oral health of all demographics in this country through better and more accessible educational resources. It is clear that certain segments of the population have poorer dental health than others and it is essential that we target these groups especially.”
The Foundation encourages members of the public with any concerns about their oral health to contact the National Dental Helpline on 0845 063 1188.
The study was conducted at the University of Kentucky in America with lead author Pam Stein and published in the Journal of Dental Research.
They also managed to establish a link between a low number of teeth and a person’s genes.
It has previously been proved that gum disease is the major cause of tooth loss in adults.
“Still many people are unaware of the relationship between gum disease and overall bodily health.
“In people who have gum disease, it is thought that bacteria from the mouth can get into the blood stream. It could then affect the heart by sticking to fatty deposits in the blood vessels of the heart. This can mean clots are more likely to form. Blood clots can reduce normal blood flow, so that the heart does not get all the nutrients and oxygen it needs. If the blood flow is badly affected this could lead to a heart attack.
“People with gum disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease as those without gum disease.
“Recent research has also shown that you are more likely to develop diabetes if you have gum disease.
This is probably because diabetics are more likely to get infections and generally heal at a slower rate.
“Gum disease can never be cured but as long as you take good care of your oral health you can slow down its progress and even stop it altogether.
You must make sure you remove plaque every day, and go for regular check–ups with the dentist and hygienist, as often as they recommend.”
For further information please contact the Foundation’s Press Office on 01788 539792 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members of the public can contact the Dental Helpline for free and impartial expert advice on 0845 063 1188, Monday to Friday, or by emailing email@example.com.
The Foundation’s website can be found at www.dentalhealth.org.
A series of free ‘Tell Me About…’ leaflets, covering topics such as dental care for mother and baby, children’s teeth, gum disease and dental decay, amongst others are also available.
The paper by Pam Stein ‘Tooth Loss, Apolipoprotein E, and Decline in Delayed Word Recall’ can be found at http://jdr.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/89/5/473
An abstract of Pam Stein’s earlier work with tooth loss and dementia, entitled ‘Tooth loss, dementia and neuropathology in the Nun study’, can be found at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17908844
The British Dental Health Foundation is the UK’s leading oral health charity, with a 39year track record of providing public information and influencing government policy. It maintains a free consumer advice service, an impartial and objective product accreditation scheme, publishes and distributes a wide range of literature for the profession and consumers, and runs National Smile Month each May, to promote greater awareness of the benefits of better oral health.