Lose a tooth, lose a month?

Every time you lose a tooth, your life gets shorter. That's the conclusion researchers at Göteborg University, in Göteborg, Sweden reached -- at least when it comes to people over 70 -- when they compared dental records to mortality rates.

"The results showed that each remaining tooth at age 70 decreased the mortality risk by 4 percent over 7 years, and 2 percent - 3 percent over 18 years," wrote the researchers in the online edition of the Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology.

But, you ask, is there really a cause and effect here? Could there be some other factor -- say smoking or poverty -- that causes both tooth loss and an earlier death? The investigators thought of that, too. And the answer, as far as they can tell, is "no."

They screened out the effects of income, education, marriage, smoking, physical activity, social activity, drug consumption, diseases, underweight, and overweight. They found that losing teeth seemed to affect how long people lived independently of any of these factors.

How come? The investigators weren't sure, but they point to previous research showing that people with more teeth eat better. And they speculated that replacing lost teeth with implants might lengthen lives.

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