We investigated the effect of poor masticatory ability on cognitive trajectories and dementia risk in older adults. 544 cognitively intact adults aged ≥50 were followed for up to 22 years. Cognitive domains (verbal, spatial/fluid, memory, and perceptual speed) were assessed at baseline and follow-ups. Dementia was ascertained according to standard criteria. Masticatory ability was assessed using the Eichner Index and categorized according to the number of posterior occlusal zones: A (all four), B (3-1), and C (none).

At baseline, 147 (27.0%) participants were in Eichner category A, 169 (31.1%) in B and 228 (41.9%) in C. After the age of 65, participants in Eichner category B and C showed an accelerated decline in spatial/fluid abilities (β: -0.16, 95% CI: -0.30 to -0.03) and (β: -0.15, 95% CI: -0.28 to -0.02), respectively. Over the follow-up, 52 incident dementia cases were identified. Eichner categories B or C were not associated with an increased risk of dementia, compared to category A (Hazard Ratio [HR]: 0.83, 95% CI: 0.39 to 1.76 and HR: 0.63, 95% CI: 0.30 to 1.29, respectively).

Poor masticatory ability is associated with an accelerated cognitive decline in fluid/spatial abilities, however it was not related to a higher risk of dementia.