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Is A Senior's Mental Health Related To Their Dental Health?

Jan 31, 2018 by Comfort Keepers of San Marcos

Many ailments we face as our bodies aged are actually caused inadvertently by other things. Sleep problems, for example, are normally side effects of another medical issue the body is struggling with.

But what about oral health affecting our mental health, or vice versa? Our teeth and our brains have nothing to do with each other, right? You’d think not, but new research shows an interesting correlation between the two in seniors:

Cognition and Oral Health: It Goes Both Ways

A recently released report looked at several studies on both cognition and oral health spanning from 1993 to 2013.

Some of the studies found no association between the two, but others found a positive correlation between the two aspects of senior health.

Those who had fewer teeth, more cavities and the presence of gum disease had a higher risk of both mental decline and dementia.

Conversely, those who were cognitively impaired more frequently had oral problems, showing the correlation goes both ways.

The Possible Link

Though there’s no evidence to point towards how the two forms of degeneration may be connected, there are a few hypotheses.

One researcher speculates that because dementia can play a role in apraxia, a condition that causes someone to forget something they used to know how to do (brushing your teeth, eating, etc.), can contribute to poorer oral health. This shows how cognitive decline can lead to forgetfulness, lack of care, and even inability for someone to take care of their teeth, therefore showing a possible link between the two.

Another scientist hypothesized the two forms of ailments having a similar inflammatory pathway, where in which one gets inflamed (which is a bad thing), the other does, too.

Neither of these are verifiable just yet, though the possible think is interesting to think about.

Link or Not, It’s About Your Quality of Life

By this, I don’t not mean that it doesn’t matter if there is a verifiable link between the two forms of decline and that we should just believe it anyway.

In other words, even if there is no link, both dental and mental health issues can greatly affect your quality of life. We all know about how poor mental health can affect our quality of life, but poor dental health can lead to the following:

  • Problems eating, drinking and overall swallowing
  • Pain in your gums
  • Bleeding in your gums
  • Dry mouth
  • Incessant drooling
  • Sensitive teeth

Therefore, trying to prevent both by living your healthiest life can reduce your risk of getting either. If you’re experiencing problems with either your oral health or your cognitive health (or even both), talk to your doctor.

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