Do you have gaps in your smile? A missing tooth or two can add a bit of character to your look, but it can also affect the way you chew food and the way you speak. Even more concerning is the fact that missing teeth can affect the health of your entire body. They could even increase the chances that you’ll develop dementia. Your dentist in Spring is here to explain the link between missing pearly whites and Alzheimer’s.
Missing Teeth and Alzheimer’s
A Japanese study that involved over 1,500 adults over the age of 60 found that those who had missing teeth were significantly more likely to develop dementia. The study divided the participants into four groups that were based on the number of teeth they had. Those who had 10 to 19 teeth were 62 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who had 20 or more teeth. Those who had one to nine teeth were 81 percent more likely to experience dementia.
The study found the strongest link between missing teeth and Alzheimer’s, while no connection was found between missing teeth and another type of dementia, vascular dementia.
Why the Connection?
It may not be the missing teeth themselves that cause Alzheimer’s; rather, it may be the inflammation that accompanies tooth loss and gum disease. Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or infection. When bacteria sneaks into the bloodstream and works its way to the brain, the immune system has to fight it. Several studies have found that inflammation in the brain produces Alzheimer’s-like effects.
Another reason for the link between dementia and tooth loss may have to do with chewing. Chewing increases blood flow and heightens oxygen levels in the blood, two things that may reduce the odds of getting Alzheimer’s. It is difficult to chew if one does not have a full set of teeth.
Lifestyle also comes into play. Older adults may have missing teeth because of decades of bad habits, such as smoking or eating unhealthy foods. The cumulative result of such choices could contribute to the development of mental health problems.
Protecting Your Mental and Oral Health
Since oral health is so closely connected to mental health, people of all ages should do their best to care for their teeth and gums. Be sure you:
- Brush twice daily and floss at least once a day.
- Visit your dentist twice a year for cleanings and checkups.
- Try to correct any lifestyle choices, such as tobacco use, that can damage your oral health.
If you’re already missing teeth, consider getting them replaced. Dentures are an option, but many people have found that they prefer dental implants in Spring. These titanium posts that your dentist inserts into your jaw support artificial teeth. They’re sturdy and natural-looking, and they can allow you to eat a healthy diet full of nutritious food.
Missing teeth are a serious problem that can affect your entire life, including your mental health. Fortunately, there are ways to replace those pearly whites and protect your entire body.
About the Dentist
Dr. Kelly LeBlanc has decades of experience in dentistry. He provides preventive services as well as restorations to help his patients whether they’re trying to avoid losing teeth or replace ones that have already been lost. If you have questions or concerns about your oral health, contact our office at 281-376-3959.