Good oral health is essential to living a normal life. Poor oral health can lead to tooth loss, gum disease, and even jaw damage, all of which can severely impact your ability to do everyday activities.
However, two Rutgers studies published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society has also found a potential link between poor oral health, cognitive decline, and stress.
Researchers interviewed over 2,700 Chinese Americans aged 60 and older about their dental issues. They found that almost half of the study’s participants reported experiencing poor oral health symptoms in their teeth, while about 25.5% experienced dry mouth at some point.
For the participants that experienced teeth issues in the first study, many were found to have experienced declines in episodic memory and cognition. Declines in these are known
As for the dry mouth in the second study, the researchers found that stress increased dry mouth symptoms, which can damage oral health further.
Key Findings of These Studies
These studies found that
47.8% of older Chinese Americans reported teeth symptoms; participants with teeth symptoms at baseline experienced cognitive and memory declines
18.9% of older Chinese Americans reported gum symptoms
15.6% of older Chinese Americans reported both teeth and gum symptoms
25.5% of older Chinese Americans reported dry mouth
More perceived stress was correlated with higher chances of dry mouth
According to XinQi Dong, the director of Rutgers’s Institute for Health, these findings pointed to a need to look into psychosocial factors surrounding oral health, as current efforts are focused more on physical diseases and oral health habits.
Minorities May Be Particularly Vulnerable
Dong stated that “racial and ethnic minorities are particularly vulnerable to the negative consequences of poor oral health”.
Low socioeconomic status and language barriers are two of the factors behind this. In addition, they may not be insured, which further prevents them from being able to afford the dental care they need.
“Support from family and friends could be protective against dry mouth symptoms in relation to stress; however, the potential overload of such support could be detrimental to oral health outcomes among older Chinese Americans”, according to Weiyu Mao, an assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Reno’s School of Social Work.
Mao continued with “Interventions strategies need to expand beyond common risk factors, such as health conditions and health behaviors, and account for psychosocial determinants, including stress and social support, to better promote oral health and reduce oral health disparities in the population.”