In earlier blog posts, I’ve talked about the connections between oral health and your general health. Another aspect of the connection between oral health and general health is the possible link between tooth loss and memory loss. A study published in Behavioral and Brain Functions on December 31, 2010 provides even more incentive to see your Raleigh dentist and take care of your oral health.
In a study including 4,200 Japanese adults age 65 or older, the participants received a thorough dental examination and psychological evaluation. Individuals who had lost more of their own teeth had a higher risk of memory loss or early stage Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Nozomi Okamoto, the lead investigator for the study, indicated that individuals who had symptoms of memory loss reported that they rarely or never visited a dentist. Dr. Okamoto said that one possible explanation is that “infections in the gums that can lead to tooth loss may release inflammatory substances, which in turn will enhance the brain inflammation that cause neuronal death and hasten memory loss.”
Gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults who are 35 and older. Dr. Okamoto indicated that other factors could be involved in the linkage between tooth loss and memory. In general, little is known about the actual causes of Alzheimer’s, in spite of extensive research. The exact relationship between tooth loss, memory, and Alzheimer’s certainly warrants more study. In the meantime, though, it makes good sense to see your Raleigh dentist regularly to prevent or manage gum disease that becomes more prevalent as we age.