Background Growing evidence suggests that oral health may be an important factor associated with cognitive function in aged populations. However, many previous studies on this topic used insensitive oral indicators or did not include certain essential covariates. Thus, we examined the association between occlusal force and cognitive function in a large sample of older adults, controlling for dietary intake, vascular risk factors, inflammatory biomarkers, depression, and genetic factors. Methods In this cross-sectional study of older community-dwelling Japanese adults, we examined data collected from 994 persons aged 70 years and 968 persons aged 80 years. Cognitive function was measured using the Japanese version of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA-J). Oral status and function were evaluated according to the number of remaining teeth, periodontal pocket depth, and maximal occlusal force. Associations between MoCA-J scores and occlusal force were investigated via bivariate and multivariate analyses. Results Education level, financial status, depression score, and intake of green and yellow vegetables, as well as number of teeth and occlusal force, were significantly correlated with MoCA-J scores in both age groups. Among individuals aged 80 years, CRP and periodontal status were weakly but significantly associated with MoCA-J score. After controlling for all significant variables via bivariate analyses, the correlation between maximal occlusal force and cognitive function persisted. A path analysis confirmed the hypothesis that cognitive function is associated with occlusal force directly as well as indirectly via food intake. Conclusions After controlling for possible factors, maximal occlusal force was positively associated with cognitive function directly as well as indirectly through dietary intake.
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