Taking care of our mouth and teeth is an integral part of our daily hygiene routine. However, new research suggests that our oral health may be related to our level of cognitive function. According to a recent study conducted by scientists from the University of Central Lancashire (UK), there is a direct link between oral health and cognitive decline.
Oral hygiene and dental health not only affect gum health, but can also have an effect on the brain itself. Researchers from Japan found a link between tooth loss, gum disease and changes in the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory and Alzheimer’s disease. These results underscore the importance of keeping your teeth healthy to maintain not only your mouth, but your brain as well.
Oral health research is increasingly focusing on its connection to cognitive function. A four-year study conducted on 172 people found a link between dental health and the size of the hippocampus. Although no causal relationship has been established, these findings may influence dentists’ decisions about our oral health.
Study participants, all age 55 and older, underwent memory tests at the beginning of the study and provided data on their general health and medical history. MRI scans were used to measure hippocampal volume at the beginning of the study and four years later. The number of teeth in each participant was also counted and the depth of periodontal probing, an indicator of gum health, was examined.
The results of the study showed that the number of teeth and the degree of gum disease were related to changes in the left hippocampus of the brain. People with mild gum disease and fewer teeth had a rapid reduction in the size of the left hippocampus. Each tooth lost increased the rate of brain shrinkage, the equivalent of one year of brain aging. On the other hand, people with severe gum disease and more teeth had a faster reduction in hippocampal size. An additional tooth accelerated the shrinkage of the left hippocampus, which corresponded to 1.3 years of brain aging.
These results underscore the importance of proper oral care and dental health. They also suggest that gum disease may have long-term effects on cognitive function and brain health.