Subsequent to a diagnosis of dementia, patients have less contact with dental care services, and their oral health is impaired, according to Karolinska Institutet. Its researchers compiled information on diagnoses and cognitive function for approximately 58,000 people listed in the Swedish Dementia Registry from 2007 to 2015 as well as data from the Tandhälsoregistret dental health registry.
“We observed that the number of visits to dentists saw a dramatic decrease after a dementia diagnosis and that the reduction in utilization of dental health services was more predominant with patients who experienced a more rapid degeneration in cognitive function,” said Maria Eriksdotter, PhD, professor of geriatrics at the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences, and Society at Karolinska Institutet.
A low score on the Mini-Mental State Examination, which is used to indicate cognitive impairment, represented a risk factor for losing teeth. Poor oral health, tooth decay, and loose teeth may cause pain, reduced quality of life, and difficulties eating, resulting in poor nutrition. The researchers found that the reduction in dental care utilization is more prominent in patients with rapid progressive cognitive impairment and in those with a greater frailty burden.
“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,” said Gunilla Sandborgh Englund, DDS, PhD, professor at the Department of Medicine. “We require better organization to detect these patients and ensure that they attend their dental health checkups.”
The research was financed by Alzheimerfonden (the Swedish Alzheimer Foundation), the Stockholm City Council, the Swedish Research Council, and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions. The study, “Dental Care Utilization in Patients with Different Types of Dementia: A Longitudinal Nationwide Study of 58,037 Individuals,” was published by Alzheimer’s & Dementia.