THURSDAY, Oct. 18, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Tooth loss and mouth illnesses may boost the risk of dementia later in life, U.S. research shows.
A team at the University of Kentucky analyzed the dental records and annual cognitive test results of 144 participants, ages 75 to 98, in the Nun Study, an examination of aging and Alzheimer's disease among sisters of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
Of participants "who did not have dementia at the first examination (of annual exams over a 12-year period), those with few teeth -- zero to nine -- had an increased risk of developing dementia during the study, compared with those who had 10 or more teeth," the study authors wrote in the October issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.
The team offered several possible reasons for this association, including periodontal disease, early-life nutritional deficiencies, and infections or chronic diseases that may result simultaneously in tooth loss and brain damage.
Further research is needed to confirm whether there is a direct link between tooth loss and increased risk of dementia, the researchers said.
"It is not clear from our findings whether the association is causal or casual," they wrote.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about dementia.