A recent study suggests that poor oral health can cause cognitive impairment. According to two studies, stress can badly affect oral health that leads to impairment of cognitions in specific elderly communities.
Oral health is an indicator of an individual’s overall health. Any oral disease affects not only the quality of life but also increases the risk of many diseases.
Researchers have found an association between gum disease and stroke. A recent review of 23 different studies found evidence related to oral health and cognitive functions like memory.
Recently, researchers from Rutgers University, New Brunswick conducted research to find out the link between oral health and cognitive impairment. They performed two different studies on perceived stress and cognitive impairment separately.
Both studies are published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Chinese American study population is at more risk
The researchers focused both studies on Chinese American adults with age 60 and above. XinQi Dong said that ethnic and racial minorities have more chances of suffering from the consequences of poor oral health.
Dong further added that the reason behind this increased risk is lack of access to preventative oral care. Other factors include low socioeconomic status and language barriers.
The first study asked the participants about their oral health. Researchers asked them to complete five cognitive tests.
In the second study, researchers asked participants about issues of dry mouth. They asked the participants about any perceived stress, social strain and social support levels using pre-defined scales.
Out of 2700 Chinese American participants, nearly half of them reported about tooth-related problems. Almost one-quarter of the sample population reported about dry mouth.
Researchers found no significant association between gum problem and cognitive impairments.
However, they found a link between cognitive decline and tooth symptoms. Cognitive decline was characterized by episodic memory loss and global cognition. Episodic memory losses have a link with the onset of dementia.
Researchers found a similar link in the second study. Participants with more perceived stress reported more dry mouth issues. However, social support, particularly from friends seems to protect from dry mouth in some cases.
However, Weiyo Mao said that potentially over support can lead to detrimental oral effects in case of elderly Chinese Americans.
What is the key to oral health?
All studies with human reporting have certain limitations. However, researchers suggested spreading awareness about immigrant oral health and psychosocial effects on cognitive functions.
Dong said that these studies demonstrate the importance of monitoring oral health effects later in life. This may help in understanding the specific outcomes in different cultural groups.
Dong also called these study results as an alarm for the government to develop policies for oral health programs. These programs should aim at improving oral health preventative and dental care services, particularly in high-risk populations.
According to the research team, authorities should ensure the good oral health of the Chinese American population.
Mao suggested that intervention strategies should expand beyond the common risk factors such as health conditions and behaviors. They should account for psychosocial determinants such as social stress and social support.