THURSDAY, Sept. 26, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Among U.S. Chinese older adults, oral (teeth and gums) health symptoms are associated with a decline in cognitive function, according to a study published online Aug. 12 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Darina V. Petrovsky, Ph.D., R.N., from the New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing in New York City, and colleagues used data from 2,713 community-dwelling Chinese American adults participating in the Population Study of Chinese Elderly in Chicago (mean age, 72.6 years; 58.4 percent women) to assess the relationship between oral health symptoms and cognitive function.

The researchers found that at baseline, 47.8 percent of participants reported having teeth symptoms and 18.9 percent reported having gum symptoms. Participants who reported having teeth symptoms at baseline experienced declines in their global cognition and episodic memory after adjustment for sociodemographic and health-related characteristics. In an unadjusted analysis, participants with teeth symptoms at baseline also experienced a faster rate of decline in global cognition for every additional year, but this effect disappeared in an adjusted analysis. There was no significant relationship between baseline gum symptoms and change in cognitive function.

“Developing policy measures aimed at ameliorating health and improving cognition in this high-risk fast-growing population in the United States would need to include oral health preventive and dental care services,” the authors write.

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