Many of us look forward to growing old–having the time and freedom to do what we want and live as we want. But there’s a shadow that hangs over our glowing dreams for our golden years: dementia. Dementia can make it hard, if not impossible, to enjoy the years we have left.
But now a new study says there’s something you can do now to reduce your risk of dementia as you get older: maintain your teeth. A large new meta-analysis suggests that keeping most of your teeth can reduce your risk of dementia by as much as 50%!
A Systematic Review of Evidence
The new study isn’t actually any new data, but a re-analysis of all the existing data on the relationship between the number of teeth and dementia risk in later life. Researchers utilized 11 studies that had an enrollment of nearly 30,000 people aged 52 to 75 to look at the question. A meta-analysis like this can give us answers to questions that individual studies don’t have the statistical power to answer.
However, they often can’t be as specific as the individual studies because the study designs may be too different to allow detailed analysis of the entire sample. For this study, they were only able to look at two groups: those who had few or no teeth left and those who had most or all of their teeth. They compared the dementia risk of these two groups and found that the group with most or all of their teeth had only 48% of the risk of developing dementia as the group that had few or no teeth left.
Even though they acknowledge that the quality of their evidence is low, they still felt this dramatic difference likely reflected the truth. If you can retain your teeth, you’re less likely to experience dementia as you get older.
Preserving Your Teeth
So, how do you got about retaining your teeth for a lifetime? The best way is to use a three-stage strategy that will help you maintain fully functional teeth despite the challenges of oral health that naturally come with age.
First, start by protecting your natural teeth. This starts with your at-home oral hygiene routine, but regular dental checkups help us to ensure you’re cleaning your teeth properly, head off problems, and detect issues as they arise.
You’re not only trying to avoid cavities. You also want to avoid gum disease. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that gum disease may directly contribute to dementia risk. (Since gum disease is the leading cause of adult tooth loss, some might say the real link is between gum disease and dementia, not tooth loss and dementia.)
We also want to be on the lookout for bite problems that can damage and wear teeth down.
We do our best to avoid tooth problems, but, inevitably, some will arise. When they do, it’s important to restore damaged teeth as soon as possible. Left untreated, tooth problems like cavities and gum disease will worsen. Restorative dentistry doesn’t just stop disease, it can protect and strengthen your teeth from future attacks.
When we detect bite problems, we might also recommend a full mouth reconstruction to adjust the bite and protect your teeth.
Sometimes you have to lose a tooth to preserve your health and/or your other teeth. When this happens, it’s important to replace your teeth as soon as possible. If you don’t, you’re more likely to lose other teeth.
It’s important to make sure the replacements are as close to natural teeth as possible. Dental implants can replace a lost tooth to maintain not just the appearance of a whole smile, but the function of one.
A Smile for Life
Having a smile for life isn’t just about being able to confidently show your happiness. It’s about maintaining the foundation of good overall health that helps you avoid perils of age like dementia or heart disease. In other words, it’s also about being able to live the kind of life that makes you want to smile.
If you are looking for a dentist in the Detroit area who can help you maintain your smile for life, please call (248) 656-2020 today for an appointment at Doolin Haddad Advanced Dentistry in Rochester, MI.