From a young age we are told to brush our teeth so that we don’t lose them as we age. Now it seems that it is not our oral health that is at stake. Our brain can get sick because of dental hygiene.
Researchers in Japan found a connection between teething, gum disease, and shrinkage of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that is involved in memory and Alzheimer’s disease.
Surprisingly, the results show that it may sometimes be better to dispose of diseased teeth to protect not only the health of the mouth but also the brain.
“These results show the importance of maintaining dental health and not just maintaining teeth,” says geriatrician Satoshi Yamaguchi from Tohoku University.
This adds to the existing research on oral health among the growing knowledge of its connection with cognitive function.
The results of a study of 172 people over four years do not prove the cause; rather, it shows the connection between these things. However, the results of studies like this can influence how doctors make difficult decisions about our oral health.
Participants, all aged 55 or older, took a memory test at the beginning of the study, and researchers collected data on each person’s health and medical history, using questionnaires and clinical tests.
Participants were only included in the study if they had no memory problems at baseline. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) allowed Yamaguchi and his team to determine the volume of their hippocampus at baseline and four years later.
Dentists counted the number of teeth in each participant and performed periodontal probing (PD), an examination of the gum tissue around each tooth that can provide an indication of gum disease.
“Gingivitis and gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the muscles around the teeth that can lead to clenching of the mouth and tooth decay, are very common,” explains Yamaguchi, “so evaluating the possible link to dementia is important.”
A healthy PD range is between one and three millimeters; A PD of three to four millimeters in several places is referred to as gum disease; and chronic gum disease affects a PD of five to six millimeters in several places. Analyzes were based on the average PD of each participant at baseline and four years later.
The researchers found that the number of teeth and the development of gum disease were associated with changes in the left hippocampus of the brain. The hippocampus undergoes volume depletion early in Alzheimer’s disease.
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The left hippocampus shrank faster in people with gum disease who also had fewer teeth. One less tooth increased the rate of brain decline in people with mild gum disease by an amount equal to an additional year of brain aging.
On the other hand, in people with severe gum disease, they have More information teeth were associated with rapid brain activity in the same area. The increase in left hippocampus shrinkage caused by another tooth was associated with 1.3 years of brain aging, in people with severe gum disease.
This difference was seen after the researchers took into account the age of the students.
“These findings suggest that the retention of teeth with severe gum disease is associated with brain damage,” says Yamaguchi. “Preventing the spread of gum disease by visiting the dentist regularly is important.”
The study involved a small number of people, all from the same region in Japan, which makes it necessary to conduct studies on a larger, more diverse population before these results are confirmed.
However, it is a reminder to all of us that our white pearls are important not only to fight for longevity, but also to keep our minds clear.
“Our research found that [tooth loss and gum disease] “They can improve the area of the brain that controls thinking and memory, which gives people another reason to take good care of their teeth,” says Yamaguchi.
This study was published in Neurology.