Health

Looking after your gums can help slow down your brain's ageing

Scientists believe there is a link between how many teeth we keep in our head and the speed at which our brain shrinks, writes Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care

As we get older each lost tooth is equivalent to one year of brain ageing, according to Japanese scientists
As we get older each lost tooth is equivalent to one year of brain ageing, according to Japanese scientists As we get older each lost tooth is equivalent to one year of brain ageing, according to Japanese scientists

As we age, getting used to things shrinking, shrivelling and degenerating is on the cards, however distasteful that may sound.

Ageing is an unstoppable voyage controlled by the hands of time but the rate that our body atrophies is within our reach to apply some pressure to the breaks and slow things down if we so wish.

According to Japanese scientists from Tohoku University, there is a link between how many teeth we keep in our head and the speed at which our brain shrinks, as published in the Neurology Journal.

They homed in on the hippocampus, a double, tadpole-shaped structure tucked deep inside our brain which has been assigned the job of memory, motivation, learning, and emotions.

As we get older the hippocampus can wither and when this happens our power of memory diminishes. The scientists looked at 172 people with impeccable memories and followed them for four years. The participants completed memory tests, had their brains scanned and had dental exams to check the state of their gum health.

It was observed that those who had the most inflamed gums and the fewest teeth also experienced the greatest shrinkage to the hippocampus regions. Each tooth lost was equivalent to one year of brain ageing.

Oddly enough, the study revealed that the more teeth that were present in someone suffering from severe gum disease the worse the rate of brain shrinkage. So, it's not just a numbers game. The teeth need to be both present and healthy; it's no good having a tooth if the gum around it is swollen and inflamed or a hulking-infected abscess is clinging to its root.

This is probably due to the level of inflammation that can happen around untreated gum diseased teeth which allows inflammatory products to float around the body and pelt the organs with damaging chemical storms.

This study is shining a torch on how our bodies want to not only have our body parts intact but it's as important to have each part functioning to its ideal capacity to maintain full body health balance.

There are many gum disease therapies that can transform red, bleeding, infected gums into a lovely, pink healthy state.