Certain conditions of the teeth are a normal part of the aging process, but when cared for properly, your natural teeth should be able to last a lifetime. However, many older adults experience tooth loss, and researchers believe that this can have greater implications for the health of seniors. In fact, researchers from University College London found that tooth loss is linked to mental and physical decline in older adults.
In this study, which was published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, data from over 3,100 adults living in England over the age of 60 were examined. Researchers compared walking speed and memory testing results of participants who had their own teeth with their counterparts that only had some of their natural teeth. They found that people who had lost all of their natural teeth scored 10% lower in both the walking and memory testing than the people with their natural teeth.
It is important to note that the causes behind tooth loss and physical and mental decline are often linked to socioeconomic status. For example, gum disease is the most common cause for tooth loss in adults, and the prevalence of experiencing gum disease is much higher for people living below the poverty line. Tooth loss is rare in high-income households, and it is most often noticed in states with disproportionately high rates of poverty.
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Regardless of the underlying reasons for the association, noting tooth loss in adults will provide the opportunity to spot individuals who may be at a higher risk for faster decline as they age. If you notice that your older loved one is starting to lose teeth, you should be sure to keep an eye on their physical and mental health. If you notice any changes, be sure to point them out to their dentist and primary care physician.