Dental hygiene is an essential part of our day. But besides preventing cavities, brushing your teeth also protects your brain. Study after study reinforces the fact that brushing your teeth not only maintains a healthy mouth, but also a healthy brain. Research shows that people with poor oral health are predisposed to diseases that cause memory loss, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Read on to learn more about the fascinating mouth-mind connection.
Memory and Missing Teeth
Animal studies found that rats with missing teeth had worse memory than rats who had a full set of teeth. Perhaps this is because memory is formed by sensory impulses produced by movements in the jaw.
The hippocampus is the memory-forming part of the brain. Researchers are finding that when you chew the hippocampus becomes activated by the motions of your teeth and jaw. That suggests the less preserved your teeth are, the fewer impulses are sent to the hippocampus and the fewer memories we hold.
Though it is still not fully understood, there is a connection between dementia and missing teeth. Even one missing tooth raises the risk of dementia, and the risk increases with each additional tooth lost. And that’s something to chew on!
Gum Disease and Alzheimer’s
Additionally, recent studies have raised concern that the condition of gums and teeth may have a direct impact on the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
The human mouth is home to a variety of bacteria, without proper dental hygiene, the bacteria can overpopulate and cause gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums. This normally happens when pieces of food and bacteria are left on the teeth and form plaque. If left untreated the gingivitis can turn into the disease periodontitis and continue spreading.
The gum disease triggers a “systemic inflammatory state” and releases agents that continue inflammation. These agents could cross into the brain and stimulate inflammation in the brain tissue which increases toxic protein buildup. Increased buildup damages the lining of the blood vessels in the brain, which is the same kind of damage found in a brain with Alzheimer’s.
When your teeth and gums feel good, you feel good. A scientific study found a clear link between gum disease and mood conditions like stress, anxiety, and depression.
Mental health issues, such as depression, increase the stress hormone cortisol in the body. As cortisol rises, your immune system gets weaker and leaves you open to attack from gum inflammation (gingivitis) or gum disease (periodontitis). People with anxiety are more likely to develop canker sores, bruxism (grinding your teeth), and dry mouth syndrome. If you are struggling with any mental health issues make sure to be extra vigilant with your oral healthcare.
Oral Health is Key
Why risk these issues when just a few minutes a day could keep your teeth healthy? Your dental health affects much more than just your brain, keeping your teeth healthy keeps your whole body healthy Read our guide to proper brushing technique (hint, it’s not what you think), visit your dentist regularly to get ahead of any problems, and try our MD Brush today to keep your smile sparkly and your brain and body healthy!
Want to connect?
If you believe you are suffering from Sleep Apnea, Snoring, or TMJ or you just need general dentistry, and would like more information, contact Beth Snyder DMD at (215) 346-7462