Patients with dementia tend to abandon regular dental check-ups, the results of a large-scale longitudinal study have revealed. The utilisation of dental services, as well as the research group’s general oral health status, significantly declined after a diagnosis of dementia, researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden found.
The results are especially alarming since studies have linked neurodegenerative diseases with a higher risk of developing several oral conditions. In addition to the dramatic decrease in the number of dental visits, researchers found that a reduction in the utilisation of dental health services was more common in patients who experienced a more rapid degeneration of cognitive function, said Prof. Maria Eriksdotter from the Karolinska Institutet.
One of the study’s authors, Prof. Gunilla Sandborgh Englund, commented on the findings: “It may be the case that patients forget to visit the dentist or put other types of healthcare 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”.
The study was published online on July 8 in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.
The researchers examined the data from over 58,000 people registered in the Swedish dementia registry between 2007 and 2015. Additional dental health data was obtained from the Swedish national dental health registry.
Due to the global ageing population trend, implementing measures for good oral health among the elderly population is one of the key challenges of geriatrics and dentistry today.