Researchers analyzing results from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA), found that losing one’s natural teeth led to about a 10% decline in memory and walking speed. Although memory losses could be accounted for in other ways, walking speed effects seemed to be related to tooth loss alone.

A Large, Comprehensive Study

ELSA is a large British study looking at more than 3100 adults aged 60 and older. To gauge the impacts of aging on the population as a whole, adults were given a wide range of tests related to physical and mental ability. For this study, researchers focused on memory and walking speed and compared the results for people who had lost their teeth with those that still had their teeth, which is when they discovered the disparity.

Tooth loss is a more important indicator for adults in the younger ranges of this category, age 60 to 74. At age 75 and older, the performance difference diminished. Researchers say this means that tooth loss could be used as an early warning for people who are at an elevated risk of decline.

Physical Difference Unaccounted for

In an attempt to determine whether tooth loss was responsible for the memory and walking decline, researchers corrected for a wide range of demographic features included in ELSA, such as physical health, existing health problem, lifestyle choices that affect health (such as smoking and drinking), education, and economic class. They found that these other variables explained the differences in memory between the two groups.

But sociodemographics didn’t account for the changes in walking speed. That seemed to be related to tooth loss.

The Difference Dentures Can Make

We’ve already talked about the impact that tooth loss and dentures can have on walking. The jaw plays an important role in stabilizing the body and helping balance, and without teeth it can’t perform that role. Dental implants can be used to restore this function, as can properly-fitting dentures.

If you are concerned that tooth loss is impacting your ability to get around, we can help. Please call (803) 781-9090 for an appointment with a Columbia, SC denture dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry.