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Link Between Oral Health and Memory: Gum Disease Tied to Hippocampus Shrinkage

  • August 23, 2023
  • 2 min read
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Link Between Oral Health and Memory: Gum Disease Tied to Hippocampus Shrinkage

Neglecting oral health has broader consequences beyond dental well-being. In addition to its known connections to heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers, a new perspective underscores another compelling reason for prioritizing oral care: the potential influence on memory later in life.

The Study and Findings

Conducted by Dr. Satoshi Yamaguchi and the team at Tohoku University Graduate School of Dentistry in Sendai, Japan, this recent study delves into the intriguing link between oral health and brain function. The study involved 172 participants, with an average age of 67, all initially without memory issues.

Initial Assessments

The study commenced with dental exams, memory tests, and brain scans. These assessments were repeated after four years to monitor changes. The hippocampus, a vital brain region for memory, was measured in terms of volume. The number of teeth and gum disease status were also factored in.

Results and Implications

Results from the study reveal that individuals with mild gum disease and fewer healthy teeth, as well as those with severe gum disease and more healthy teeth, experienced accelerated shrinkage in the left hippocampus. Losing a single tooth corresponded to nearly a year of expedited brain aging for those with mild gum disease. For individuals with severe gum disease, the shrinkage from one additional missing tooth equated to 1.3 years of brain aging.

Future Exploration

Dr. Yamaguchi emphasizes the need for further research to establish a conclusive cause-and-effect relationship. Factors such as inflammation due to periodontal disease and the potential impact of disease-related pathogens on the brain are possible explanations. Another consideration is the decrease in chewing stimulation stemming from reduced teeth count.

Prioritizing Well-being

While this study provides valuable insights, extensive research involving diverse groups is necessary to reach definitive conclusions. Percy Griffin, director of scientific engagement at the Alzheimer’s Association, stresses the importance of overall health maintenance through factors like exercise, diet, and oral hygiene for successful aging.

Conclusion

In the dynamic realm of medical research, this study serves as a poignant reminder: oral health not only affects dental well-being but may also play a pivotal role in maintaining cognitive function. It underscores the significance of prioritizing oral health as an integral component of overall well-being.

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Emma Elsher

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