It’s common knowledge these days that having a full of set of healthy teeth is imperative for positive overall health. When the body loses teeth, not only does it have to work harder than normal to fight off bacteria and to break down food properly, but one’s psychological state can suffer too, considering how much emphasis we put on the aesthetic property of teeth. But if a recent study (conducted by University College London and published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society) the physical and mental effects of losing teeth may be even more severe than previously thought.
The study, which evaluated over 3,000 individuals at least 60 years of age or older, showed a clear connection between tooth loss and decreased performance on tests that measured memory and walking pace. HealthDay reporter Robert Preidt notes that participants lacking their natural teeth had performed about 10% worse on both memory and walking tests than participants who had even a few of their original teeth.
Of course, there are plenty of other factors that likely influenced the connection between teeth and overall health. As Charlie Cooper notes in an article for British publication The Independent, unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking will naturally affect teeth, in particular, as well as other parts of the body; smoking, for example, has been clearly linked to a variety of dental problems.
Researchers note that they were careful to adjust the tests to accommodate other factors, like socioeconomic status and pre-existing health conditions, which naturally affect a person’s overall health, but which wouldn’t necessarily prove a connection between tooth loss and general health.
As one researcher noted, the connection between tooth loss and mental/physical health wasn’t particularly strong, and it would be foolish to assume that losing a few teeth would inevitably cause poorer health; rather, findings from the study can be used to show that people who live healthier lifestyles also pay more attention to their dental hygiene.