“We observed that the number of visits to dentists saw a dramatic decrease after a dementia diagnosis and that the reduction in utilisation of dental health services was more predominant with patients who experienced a more rapid degeneration in cognitive function,” explains Maria Eriksdotter, Professor of Geriatrics at the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet.
A low MMSE score (Mini-Mental State Examination) – a method used to indicate cognitive impairment – represented a risk factor in terms of losing teeth. Poor oral health, tooth decay and loosening of teeth may cause pain, reduced quality of life and difficulties eating, resulting in poor nutrition.
“It may be the case that patients forget to visit the dentist or put other types of health care first, as dental care is separate from other medical services. We require better organisation to detect these patients and ensure that they attend their dental health check-ups,” says Gunilla Sandborgh Englund, Professor at the Department of Dental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet.
The research has been financed by Alzheimerfonden (the Swedish Alzheimer foundation), Stockholm County Council (the SOF project), the Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions.