Cognitive function and oral health among community-dwelling older adults

Bei Wu*, Brenda L. Plassman, Richard J. Crout, Jersey Liang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

79 Scopus citations


Background. Both oral health problems and cognitive impairment are relatively common among older adults. Poorer oral health appears to contribute to a decline in quality of life and to be related to various medical conditions. Little is known about the relationship of cognitive function to oral health among community-dwelling older adults. Methods. The sample included 1984 dentate community-dwelling older adults 60 years old or older from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES, 1999-2002) who completed both the study cognitive measure and dental examination. Weighted descriptive and multivariate regression analyses were performed. Results. Multivariate analyses showed that cognitive function was associated with oral health. Individuals with lower cognitive scores had a higher number of decayed and missing teeth and a higher proportion of periodontitis sites. The predicted number of decayed teeth increased by 0.01 with each 1-point decrease in the Digit Symbol Substitution Test score; the number of missing teeth increased by 0.02; and the percentage of sites with periodontal disease increased by 0.02. In addition, individuals' sociodemographic characteristics, health behavior, and regular dental checkups were significantly associated with oral health. Conclusions. This study suggests that community-dwelling elders with lower cognitive function scores have greater deterioration of oral health. This study provides a preliminary knowledge base for the development of early intervention strategies to address oral health problems among older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495-500
Number of pages6
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - 05 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive function
  • Older adults
  • Oral health


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