The population in the United States is getting progressively older. According to the 2010 census 13 percent of the population is 65 years or older, and that number is likely a little higher now than it was six years ago.
There are two things that generally come with age. Firstly, your teeth will not be as healthy as they were when you were in your twenties. Enamel erosion and wear from years of use are normal, but other more serious conditions such as gum disease and tooth decay are also more common.
Another issue that arises when you get older is a decline in cognitive function. One in nine Americans 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s, and oral health often declines along with cognitive function.
Chicken or the Egg?
There has been some evidence to suggest that gum disease may actually lead to a decline in cognitive function, largely due to chronic inflammation. The exaggerated immune response from decades of chronic infection can be damaging to the brain as it is damaging to the jaw.
However, there has not been enough research to jump to a definitive conclusion. Missing teeth has also been tied to an increased risk of dementia. One study indicated that individuals with less than 20 teeth were at a 20 percent higher risk of developing cognitive decline.
While it may still be a little early to definitively say that poor oral health may cause a decrease in cognitive function, there is definitely some signs of correlation. At the very least we know that Alzheimer’s can negatively impact a person’s oral health. Gum disease has also been tied to a number of other diseases, such as kidney disease, and can be fatal in its own right.
Gum disease should not be taken lightly, and should be treated by a dentist as soon as symptoms begin to develop, but if treating gum disease could help Alzheimer’s or dementia patients then it’s all the better.
Questions About Your Oral Health?
The jury may still be out as to whether poor oral health leads to a decline in cognitive function, but it is still important to make good dental hygiene a top priority in your life.
If you live in the Orlando area and are in need of a dentist that you can trust, please consider visiting Dr. Weinstock of Michael L. Weinstock, DDS in Altamonte Springs. Give us a call at (407) 834-6446 to schedule an appointment today.