Poor dental hygiene is directly linked to decrease in brain volume and mental decline • Earth.com

A recently published study provides a compelling reason to maintain dental hygiene: It may be linked to brain health and mental decline.

The study, published online in the July 5, 2023, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, examined potential links between brain health and dental health.

Research has found that common dental problems such as gum disease and tooth loss may be linked to shrinkage of the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with memory and Alzheimer's disease.

Notably, the study does not claim that these dental problems cause Alzheimer's disease. However, it does show a strong correlation.

Study author Satoshi Yamaguchi, PhD, DDS, from Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, explains the significance of the findings.

Tooth loss and gum disease are very common, so it's important to evaluate potential links to dementia,” Yamaguchi said. He added: “Our study finds that these conditions may play a role in the health of areas of the brain that control thinking and memory, giving people another reason to take better care of their teeth.”

How dental hygiene research is done

There were 172 participants in the study, all aged around 67, and none reported memory problems at the start of the study. All underwent dental exams and memory tests. Their hippocampal volumes were measured through brain scans at the start of the study and four years later.

Researchers assessed the participants' dental hygiene and health by counting their teeth and measuring the depth of their gum tissue, a key indicator of gum disease. Healthy gum depth is usually between one and three millimeters.

Mild gum disease is marked by areas measuring three to four millimeters, while severe gum disease is marked by areas measuring five to six millimeters and is accompanied by more bone loss, leading to loose teeth and potential tooth loss. .

what scientists discovered

The study found a link between the number of teeth and severity of gum disease and changes in the hippocampus on the left side of the participants' brains.

Interestingly, in people with mild gum disease, having fewer teeth was associated with decreased intelligence caused by faster shrinkage of the left hippocampus. Conversely, in people with severe gum disease, the more teeth there are in the same area, the faster they shrink.

When it comes to brain aging, researchers found that for individuals with mild gum disease, each tooth lost accelerated brain shrinkage by the equivalent of nearly a year of brain aging. However, for people with severe gum disease, each additional tooth was associated with a faster rate of brain shrinkage, equivalent to 1.3 years of brain aging.

Yamaguchi emphasized the significance of these findings. These results highlight the importance of maintaining dental health rather than just preserving teeth,” he said.

Poor dental hygiene and gum disease linked to mental decline

Study results suggest that retaining teeth with severe gum disease may be linked to brain shrinkage. Yamaguchi stresses the importance of regular dental checkups to control the progression of gum disease. Teeth that are severely affected by gum disease may need to be removed and replaced with appropriate denture devices.

Although the findings are promising, Yamaguchi acknowledges that more research is needed, ideally involving a larger number of participants. He also noted that the study was geographically limited because it was only conducted in one region of Japan, so the results may not apply to other populations.

The research was funded by multiple Japanese institutions, including the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology; Keio University; Japan Arteriosclerosis Prevention Foundation; Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare; Teikyo University; and various pharmaceutical companies and foundations.

Essentially, this study shows that taking care of your teeth is more than just maintaining a great smile. It may also be an important factor in protecting brain health.

Maintaining good dental hygiene may help prevent diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, which can prevent mental decline. So be sure to maintain dental hygiene and get regular checkups; your brain may thank you for it.

More information about dental hygiene

Dental hygiene, also known as oral hygiene, is the practice of keeping your mouth and teeth clean to prevent dental problems such as cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.

Good dental hygiene is vital to overall health. Research shows that poor oral health is linked to a variety of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. Here are some important aspects to consider:

brush teeth

This is the cornerstone of good dental hygiene. You should brush your teeth at least twice a day. It's best to use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste in the morning and before bed.

The toothbrush should be held at a 45-degree angle to the gums. Brushing should be done in gentle circular motions covering all surfaces of the teeth. It's also important to brush your tongue as it can contain bacteria and cause bad breath. Remember to replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles are worn.


Flossing removes food particles and plaque that your toothbrush can't reach. This should be done once a day, usually before bed. To floss properly, you should use 18 inches of floss. Wrap the majority around your middle finger and gently slide it between the teeth, following the curve of each tooth to avoid damaging your gums.


After brushing and flossing, gargling with water or mouthwash can help remove any remaining particles. Some mouthwashes also contain antibacterial and breath-freshening ingredients.


Eating a balanced diet helps maintain good dental health. Try to limit sugary foods and drinks, as sugar promotes the growth of bacteria that cause cavities. Foods rich in calcium and phosphorus, such as milk, cheese, and lean meats, help keep teeth strong.

See the dentist regularly

Regular checkups and cleanings by a dental professional are important, usually every six months. Although the frequency may vary based on your individual dental health. These visits can help catch problems early so they are easier and less expensive to treat. They also remove tartar, which is hardened plaque that cannot be removed by normal brushing and flossing.

avoid smoking

Both smoking and smokeless tobacco can cause gum disease, tooth discoloration, bad breath, and oral cancer. Quitting smoking can significantly reduce these risks.

Remember, dental hygiene means more than just having a beautiful smile; It is an important part of your overall health. Practice good oral hygiene habits every day and your teeth and body will thank you.

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