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Keywords:

  • dementia;
  • dental health practices;
  • teeth;
  • elderly;
  • epidemiology

Objectives

To explore the association between dentition and dental health behaviors and incident dementia.

Design

Longitudinal cohort.

Setting

Leisure World, Laguna Hills, CA; a retirement community.

Participants

Five thousand four hundred sixty-eight older (median age 81) adults followed from 1992 to 2010.

Measurements

Questions regarding dental health focused on number of natural teeth, dentures worn, number of visits to a dentist, and oral health habits. Dementia status was determined from in-person evaluations, follow-up questionnaires, hospital data, and death certificates. Estimates of dementia risk were calculated using Cox regression analysis in men and women separately.

Results

Men with inadequate natural masticatory function who did not wear dentures had a 91% greater risk of dementia than those with adequate natural masticatory function (≥10 upper teeth and ≥6 lower teeth). This risk was also greater in women but not significantly so. Dentate individuals who reported not brushing their teeth daily had a 22% to 65% greater risk of dementia than those who brushed three times daily.

Conclusion

In addition to helping maintain natural, healthy, functional teeth, oral health behaviors are associated with lower risk of dementia in older adults.