A number of neurobiological, psychological and social factors may account for cognitive impairment. In animal studies a relation between dental status and cognitive performance has been found. It is unclear whether such a relation exists for humans, even though many older adults have poor oral health. In a large-scale population-based study involving individuals between the ages 35 to 90 years, 1366 subjects with natural teeth (55% women, 45% men; age M=56.3) and 510 edentulous subjects (61% women, 39% men; age M=73.4) were compared regarding their performance on twelve cognitive tests. In a subsequent analysis, cognitive performance was examined while the natural teeth group (N=239; 51% women, 49% men; age M=69.2) and the edentulous group (N=216; 54% women, 46% men; age M=68.8) were matched with regard to age, gender, years of education, MMSE, stress level and various diseases. The natural teeth group had a lower mean age, more formal education, reported less back pain, and performed significantly higher on several cognitive tests. After matching the groups, the natural teeth group performed significantly higher on multiple cognitive tests. The results suggest that functional natural teeth relate to relatively preserved cognitive functioning in older age, which underlines the necessity of adequate dental care in the elderly.
2007. Vol. 48, 557-565 p.