They reveal the relationship between dental hygiene and mental deterioration – DW – 08/15/2023

There are various reasons why we have always been called upon to maintain constant oral hygiene. Examples of this are eliminating bad breath in the morning or preventing tooth loss over the years. Surprisingly, however, there are even greater reasons for maintaining strict oral hygiene. And it’s that a recent study concluded that it’s not just about taking care of our gums, but that our brain health can be at stake due to poor oral hygiene.

So, Japanese researchers behind this study, published in the journal neurology, Researchers at the American Academy of Neurology have found a correlation between gum disease and tooth loss with shrinkage of the hippocampus, an area of ​​the brain important for memory that tends to get worse in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Losing your teeth would be better

Surprisingly, the results raise the possibility that, in some cases, it may be more beneficial to lose teeth affected by diseases that threaten gum health in order to protect the integrity of the gums and brain.

However, the researchers emphasize that the study does not establish a direct link between periodontal disease or tooth loss and the development of Alzheimer’s disease, but rather an association between the two.

Scientists have found that changes in the left hippocampus of the brain are associated with the number of teeth and the degree of periodontitis.Image: Halfpoint/Pond5 Images/IMAGO

“These results highlight the importance of maintaining dental health, not just preserving them,” says geriatric dentist Satoshi Yamaguchi of Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan.

“Tooth loss and gum disease, which is inflammation of the tissues surrounding the teeth that can cause gum recession and loose teeth, are very common, so assessing the possible link to dementia is incredibly important,” Yamaguchi added.

According to Yamaguchi NewsweekPrevious research has shown that chronic peripheral inflammation can increase the risk of dementia and progress to hippocampal atrophy, leading to brain shrinkage. In addition, the researcher adds, there is a possibility that the microorganisms that cause periodontal disease can enter the brain and damage nerve tissue.


The study was conducted in a specific region of Japan and included 172 participants with an average age of 67 and who had no memory problems at the start of the study. Participants underwent dental exams, memory tests, and brain scans both at the start of the study and four years later.

The researchers assessed the number of teeth each participant had and the presence of gum disease using periodontal probing depth measurements.

Changes in the left hippocampus of the brain

Thus, fewer teeth and more periodontal disease were associated with faster contraction of the left hippocampus. This relationship has been shown in both cases of mild and severe periodontal disease, suggesting that controlling and treating these conditions may have a positive impact on brain health.

“The results show that retaining teeth with severe gum disease is associated with brain atrophy. It is essential to control the progression of gum disease through regular dental visits, and teeth with severe gum disease may need to be removed and replaced. with matching dentures,” Yamaguchi said.

Edited by Felipe Espinosa Van.

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