Background: Dental health is an important determinant of nutritional status, but has not been investigated as a risk factor for dementia. This study aimed to investigate the association between number of teeth, use of dentures and recent-onset dementia.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional analysis nested within a prospective study of community dwelling elderly residents in two areas of Kwangju, South Korea. In a study of 686 community residents aged 65 or over without dementia followed over 2.4 years, measures of dental health were compared between those with and without dementia at follow-up.
Results: Fewer teeth were significantly associated with dementia and Alzheimer's disease. This association was strongest in participants without dentures. Strong associations were found between fewer teeth and indices of poor nutrition in this group, but these did not account for the association with dementia.
Conclusions: Having fewer teeth may be a marker of risk for dementia. This might be explained by specific nutritional deficits, or by other side effects of periodontal disease. Further prospective research is indicated.