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Study finds link between blindness and tooth loss

Posted by Joanne Mellor

Tooth loss has been linked to blindness in older men by a new study published in the Journal of Periodontology this month.

Men were found by the research to be more than four times as likely to suffer from age-related blindness in cases where they have lost the bone supporting the teeth compared to the general population.

The study discovered bone loss was seen more often in those suffering with age-related blindness, but it was also noted by the researchers that there was still a significant increase in the number of men affected after common risk factors between the disease and poor oral health were taken into account.

Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation Dr Nigel Carter explained the study could have implications for the hundreds of thousands of people in the UK who are affected by age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is a leading cause of blindness.

AMD gradually destroys the macula, which is the part of the eye that provides the sharp, central vision needed for seeing objects clearly.

“What the study does show is how important it is to maintain good gum health. More teeth are lost through long-standing gum disease than through tooth decay,” said Dr Carter, adding: “Those who may be at risk of going blind may find their teeth are naturally looser than some of their younger counterparts, but ignoring the problem is not the answer.”

He highlighted the fact that if gum disease is left untreated in older people, it can lead to bacteria getting into the bloodstream and causing heart and respiratory problems as a result.

Dr Carter recommended individuals over the age of 60 to ensure that they brush their teeth twice a day for a minimum of two minutes to cut their chances of developing gum disease.

He also stated they ought to clean in between the teeth at least once a day with interdental brushes or dental floss, while the use of mouthwash was noted as helping to prevent plaque build-up in the mouth.

Previous studies have linked gum disease with a wide range of conditions, including hypertension and psoriasis.

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