Tooth Loss: Bad for Oral Health, Also Bad for Memory? – Euro Dental Care
If you want to keep your memory sharp, you need to pay more attention to your teeth, a 2013 study suggests. The research finding reveals that people with fewer teeth perform worse on memory tests, indicating a rather interesting link between tooth loss and memory.
Memory loss and tooth loss are both natural occurrences of ageing, and apparently, they may go hand in hand. However, tooth loss is not just an effect of ageing, but can also be caused by tooth decay or severe infection.
In the study, the number of the teeth a person had a significant connection with the person’s performance on memory tests. The tests involved semantic memory, where participants recalled factual information and episodic memory, which involved events from the past.
Possible Factors: Reduced Sensory Input and Gum Disease
The reason for the link between tooth loss and memory loss is unclear, but the study’s findings are in line with previous animal studies suggesting that the presence of natural teeth has an effect on cognitive function.
In one animal study, findings reveal that tooth loss in rats resulted in memory and learning problems. The higher the number of lost teeth, the higher the neural loss and the greater the damage to the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in memory formation.
One explanation is that tooth loss reduces the sensory output from the mouth. Natural teeth send signals to the brain via a nerve responsible for facial sensation and for functions like biting and chewing. Chewing allows blood flow to the brain, activating many of its areas. If only for this activity, the memory remains active as well.
With tooth loss, there is less use of that part of the mouth. Hence, there is a loss of stimulation and fewer signals to the brain. Researchers believe that the decrease in sensory input may be one of the factors contributing to memory damage.
Another possible link between tooth loss and memory loss is gum infection. Gum diseases that lead to tooth loss may also cause inflammation, which in turn, may result in neuronal death and memory loss.
Improving Oral Hygiene
This study serves as a reminder to prioritise oral hygiene and maintain positive oral practices. Tooth loss is often the effect of gum disease, which is caused by the lack of proper brushing and flossing. Just as tooth loss can damage memory, another study found that gum disease can damage the brain. These studies strongly suggest that oral health has a greater impact on our mental health and memory than we ever imagined.
Last Resort: Replacement Teeth
Natural teeth will always be better than any restoration work, but try as we may, we cannot take back what has already been lost. We’re left with the next best thing, dental implants.
Dental implants are thin titanium screws fused into the bone and designed to function as natural tooth roots. They preserve the bone and slow down bone deterioration that occurs after the loss of a tooth. They also reduce the load on the remaining teeth by providing independent support and retention to crowns, over-dentures or bridgework.
At Euro Dental Care, we use Straumann implants in Birmingham for improved biocompatibility and stability. If you have any questions regarding your oral health or wish to know if implants are right for you, feel free to contact us today.