There appears to be a connection between poor oral health in seniors and age-related medical decline, according to a recent article from WebMd. A new report, which reviewed studies on the subject completed between 1993 and 2013 states that while a link most certainly exists, there’s not enough evidence to prove a causal relationship. Some of the reviewed studies found that the number of teeth and cavities, as well as the presence of gum disease were associated with a higher risk of mental decline, or dementia, while other studies did not find an association.
Review author Bei Wu stated in a journal news release that overall, “clinical evidence suggests that the frequency of oral health problems increases significantly in cognitively impaired older people, particularly those with dementia.” But he also confirmed that the link is still not completely understood.
Some researchers speculate that there is a shared inflammatory pathway to both cognitive decline and oral disease that would explain the relationship. But scientific proof of this theory has not been confirmed. Others suggest that poor oral health is symptomatic of memory loss, as patients either develop an apraxia, a condition where they forget a previously learned task like tying shoes or brushing teeth, or they simply forget to tend to their oral care. Regardless of the cause, the research does confirm one thing; the oral health of seniors is declining. As an industry, this fact can not be ignored. The number of seniors in our country is continuously growing, and according to Wu’s team, about 36% of those older than 70 have some type of cognitive problem. As scientists continue to unfold this mystery, it is crucial that access to dental care for seniors remain a top priority.