Tooth Loss Linked to Decline in Memory & Walking Speed

By Janice Wood
September 20th, 2022
Medically reviewed by Paul Sietes, MD.
Tooth Loss Linked to Decline in Memory & Walking Speed

A new study has found that the memory and walking speeds of adults who have lost all of their teeth decline more rapidly than in people who still have some of their own teeth.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, examined 3,166 adults aged 60 or over from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, comparing their performance in tests of memory and walking speed.

The results showed that the people who had lost all of their teeth performed approximately 10 percent worse in both memory and walking speed tests than the people with teeth.

According to researchers at the University College London, the link between total tooth loss and a decline in memory was explained after the study’s results were adjusted for a wide range of factors, including sociodemographic characteristics, existing health problems, physical health, health behaviors, such as smoking and drinking, depression, relevant biomarkers, and socioeconomic status.

The researchers found that, after adjusting for all possible factors, people without teeth still walked slightly slower than those with teeth.

The link was more evident in adults aged 60 to 74 years than in those aged 75 and older, the researchers noted.

“Tooth loss could be used as an early marker of mental and physical decline in older age, particularly among 60 to 74 year olds,” said lead author Dr. Georgios Tsakos.

“We find that common causes of tooth loss and mental and physical decline are often linked to socioeconomic status, highlighting the importance of broader social determinants, such as education and wealth to improve the oral and general health of the poorest members of society.

“Regardless of what is behind the link between tooth loss and decline in function, recognizing excessive tooth loss presents an opportunity for early identification of adults at higher risk of faster mental and physical decline later in their life,” he continued.

“There are many factors likely to influence this decline, such as lifestyle and psychosocial factors, which are amenable to change.”

Source: University College London

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.