Could Losing Your Teeth Lead to Losing Your Mind?

COLLEGEVILLE, WILLIAMSPORT AND PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – Your eyes may be the window to your soul, but recent evidence shows that your mouth could be the window to your brain.

Earlier this year, Japanese researchers discovered that people who had lost many of their teeth had a greater likelihood of developing memory problems including dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

“A point I’ve worked for years to drive home to my patients is that healthy teeth are more than just an aesthetics issue,” says DiGiallorenzo, a Philadelphia, PA periodontist. “It’s a whole-body health issue.”

Studies abound on the connection between oral health and systemic health. Diabetes, heart disease, strokes, lung disease and premature, low birthweight babies have been connected to poor oral health, says the Philadelphia dentist who specializes in periodontal treatments.

More than 4,200 people were tested during the course of the Japanese study, according to information posted on Medical News Today. Participants of the study were Japanese and at least 65 years old at the time of the study. They were given thorough dental and psychological assessments.

In addition, researchers discovered that people in the study who exhibited memory loss symptoms frequently admitted that they seldom went to dental appointments, if at all, wrote Jill Montag, a writer with Hearst Connecticut Media Group.

Dr Nozomi Okamoto, the study’s lead investigator, said lack of dental care might explain the study’s findings, but added that he also believed other connections between tooth loss and memory problems could exist.

Untreated gum infections can progress to tooth loss and have the potential to release inflammatory substances, which would enhance brain inflammation that causes neuronal death and speeds memory loss, Okamoto said. Losing sensory receptors around the teeth is linked to some dying neurons.

Dr. DiGiallorenzo says gum disease is the primary culprit behind tooth loss. People who lose teeth and don’t undergo a tooth implant procedure also risk losing bone tissue once there no longer is a tooth root secured in the bone. Dental implants serve as an anchor in the event a tooth is lost. “It’s my hope that by sharing the results of this study, people who haven’t been diligent in their dental care might be enticed to do so now,” Dr. DiGiallorenzo says.

© 2011 Master Google and Dr. David DiGiallorenzo.

Meet Dr. D

Dr. David DiGiallorenzo received his training at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Periodontics and Periodontal Prosthesis in the early 1990s. His training included prosthodontics, orthodontics, periodontics, and advanced oral reconstructive techniques, including oral implantology.

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