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Tooth loss could cause memory problems


New research has suggested that losing our teeth could actually cause memory loss, due to sensory impulses that are fed to the brain from the jaw bone as the teeth chew on food; these impulses feed the area of the brain that forms and retrieves memories. People who have suffered tooth loss transmit fewer signals to the region called the hippocampus, which inhibits memory; the two conditions are thought to be ‘uniquely and significantly’ linked, according to recent tests.

During tests, older people who still had most of their teeth had on average a 4% better memory than those without; these results could also be down to the chewing action, which increases blood flow to the brain. The study was carried out by universities in Norway and Sweden, it included 273 participants aged between 55 and 80; the results were published online by the European Journal of Oral Sciences. Participants underwent a series of memory tests to see if the number of teeth they had lost would affect recall.

The author’s hypothesis suggested that tooth loss would alter the brains episodic memory, recall, and recognition; the results were found to be in line with this idea. The study stated that ‘Alone, number of natural teeth could account for 20% of the variance in episodic recall, 15% of the variance in episodic recognition, and 14% of the variance in semantic memory.’ It was also suggested that dental implant could ‘restore sensory input to some extent’, although they would not be as effective as natural teeth.

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