Brushing your teeth boosts the brain – reducing the risk of dementia, according to new research.
People with good dental hygiene had more neurons in the hippocampus, according to the findings, which plays a role in memory.
Gum disease and tooth loss were linked with less grey matter – and declining mental health.
The findings have clinical implications as regular visits to the dentist may help prevent Alzheimer’s, say scientists.
Lead author Dr. Satoshi Yamaguchi, of Tohoku University in Japan, said: “Tooth loss and gum disease, which is inflammation of the tissue around the teeth that can cause shrinkage of the gums and loosening of the teeth, are very common.
“So evaluating a potential link with dementia is incredibly important. Our study found these conditions may play a role in the health of the brain area that controls thinking and memory – giving people another reason to take better care of their teeth.”
Chewing boosts blood and oxygen flow to the head – keeping the brain healthy. Tooth loss may also lead to unhealthy eating.
The number of dementia cases worldwide will triple to more than 150 million by 2050. With no cure in sight, there is an increasing focus on lifestyle changes that keep the mind sharp.
Gum disease is caused by inflammation of tooth-supporting tissues. It affects about one in seven adults.
The study involved 172 Japanese participants with an average age of 67 who did not have memory problems at the outset.
For those with mild gum disease, fewer teeth were associated with a faster rate of brain shrinkage in the left hippocampus – key for remembering words and language.
The same phenomenon was identified in those with severe gum disease – and more teeth.
Dr. Yamaguchi said: “These results highlight the importance of preserving the health of the teeth and not just retaining the teeth.
“The findings suggest retaining teeth with severe gum disease is associated with brain wasting.
“Controlling the progression of gum disease through regular dental visits is crucial, and teeth with severe gum disease may need to be extracted and replaced with appropriate prosthetic devices.”
In mild and severe gum disease, one less or one more tooth was equivalent to nearly one year and 1.3 years of brain ageing, respectively.
Participants underwent dental exams and memory tests. They also had brain scans to measure the volume of the hippocampus at the beginning and again four years later.
For each participant, researchers counted the number of teeth and checked for gum disease by looking at periodontal probing depth, a measurement of the gum tissue. Healthy readings are from one to three millimeters.
Mild gum disease involves probing depths of three or four mms in several areas, and severe gum disease five or six mms as well as more bone loss.
It can cause teeth to become loose and eventually fall out.
Dr. Yamaguchi, whose findings were published in the journal Neurology, said future studies are needed with larger groups of people.
Last year an international study of more than a million people found those with poor dental hygiene were 21 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
Previous studies have linked gum disease to diabetes and cardiovascular illnesses. It can even lead to chronic systemic inflammation.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
Edited by Saba Fatima and Asad Ali
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