New research published in the journal Neurology suggests that brushing your teeth can boost the brain — helping to reduce the risk of dementia.
People with good dental hygiene had more neurons in the hippocampus, the study found; the hippocampus plays a role in memory.
Gum disease and tooth loss were linked with less gray matter and declining mental health.
“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.
Gum disease is caused by inflammation of tooth-supporting tissues. It affects about one in seven adults.
The study involved 172 Japanese participants whose average age was 67; they did not have memory problems at the outset.
He also said, “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 aging, respectively, the study noted.
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.
He said a large study in 2020 by the National Institute on Aging “linked gum disease to dementia. It is because bacteria is associated with inflammation — and inflammation leads to neurodegeneration.”
Participants in the new study underwent both dental exams and memory tests. Future studies are needed with larger groups of people, said the lead author. (iStock)
He noted, “There is also a potential bias to this Japanese study in that those who are committed to hygiene may be doing so because they don’t have cognitive impairment. One of the first signs of developing dementia may be loss of interest in brushing teeth, etc. “
More study needed
Dr. Yamaguchi 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% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
Currently over 55 million people have dementia worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, with over 60% living in low-and middle-income countries. Every year, there are nearly 10 million new cases.
Dementia results from a variety of diseases and injuries that affect the brain, the WHO also notes on its website.