Fewer teeth linked with worse memory
People who have fewer natural teeth left in their mouth perform worse on memory tests, according to a study published in the European Journal of Oral Sciences. The new research is in line with previous studies in animals and humans that have found a link between loss of teeth and cognitive function.
For the study, scientists looked at 273 people, age 55 or older, and found a significant relationship between the number of natural teeth they had and how they performed on memory tests. Researchers say there are several possibilities as to why this would be the case.
One theory is that losing natural teeth reduces sensory signals to the brain, which affects its functions, including memory. Though prosthetic teeth help with eating and chewing, they lack the nerves and ligaments that attach teeth to the jaw, which could cause reduced sensory input to the brain.
Another theory is that a common factor, such as gum infection could be responsible for the link. Gum infections can cause tooth loss, but also inflammation, which could lead to neuronal death and, ultimately, memory loss.
A third theory is that because study participants had an average of 22 natural teeth, almost a third fewer than a normal human set, they may have avoided foods with nutrients that can help maintain a good memory.