Losing teeth could result in memory problems due to a reduction in the number of signals being sent to the brain, new research has suggested.
A study conducted by scientists in Norway and Sweden and published in the European Journal of Oral Sciences indicate there is correlation between the number of natural teeth and performance in memory tests, with those who still have most of their own teeth demonstrating a four per cent improvement in memory compared to those who are missing teeth of have dentures.
It concludes that fewer teeth means fewer impulses stimulated by moving the jaw and teeth are making their way to the hippocampus area of the brain, which controls memories.
However, the NHS has played down the findings – which were reported by the Daily Mail – stating that the type of research conducted means it is not possible to definitely say tooth loss results in memory loss, despite the newspaper implying there is a concrete link.
The NHS said that while the research showed there was a relationship, it is a small one and it is “unclear whether it would have any noticeable effect on people”.
It noted other variables measured in the statistical model used by the researchers, such as age and education, “had a greater impact on memory test performance than the number of teeth did”.
The study was cross-sectional, which means it can only prove there was a relationship between memory loss and number of teeth, rather than act as evidence that losing teeth directly causes a decrease in memory performance, the health body explained.
While there may not yet be a definite link – the researchers have called for further investigations to be carried out – tooth loss can be a sign of other issues, such as poor diet and gum disease. Dental marketing materials highlighting the need for regular brushing and oral care – as well as promoting healthy eating and the need to limit sugar intake – can help ensure people keep their teeth in good condition.