Tooth loss is not just an aesthetic problem, but also a serious risk factor for brain health. People who experience tooth loss have an increased risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. How does tooth loss affect brain health? In this article, we will explore the answer to this question.
Causes and Consequences of Tooth Loss
The most common causes of tooth loss are:
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Trauma or accident
- Genetic factors
Tooth loss can cause both physical and psychological problems for people. The physical problems include:
- Difficulty in chewing and swallowing
- Nutritional disorder
- Digestive problems
- Speech disorder
- Change in facial shape
The psychological problems include:
- Lack of self-confidence
- Social isolation
These problems are the direct consequences of tooth loss. However, tooth loss also has indirect negative effects on brain health. These effects are:
How Tooth Loss Causes Cognitive Impairment?
Cognitive impairment means a decrease or deterioration in mental functions. Cognitive functions include abilities such as attention, memory, learning, language, logic, problem solving. People with cognitive impairment have difficulties in daily life activities, decision making, social relationships.
There are several mechanisms by which tooth loss causes cognitive impairment. The first one is the nutritional disorder caused by tooth loss. People who experience tooth loss cannot eat hard or fibrous foods. This reduces the intake of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids that are necessary for the brain. The lack of these nutrients can cause damage and death to brain cells.
Another mechanism is the inflammation caused by tooth loss. Gum disease is one of the most important causes of tooth loss. Gum disease causes bacterial growth and inflammation in the mouth. This inflammation can reach the brain through blood circulation. Inflammation in the brain can impair the function of brain cells and cause cognitive impairment.
Another mechanism is the social isolation caused by tooth loss. People who experience tooth loss may feel ugly and avoid smiling. This affects their social relationships and causes a feeling of loneliness. Social isolation is harmful for the brain. Because social relationships are a stimulus for the brain and help the renewal of brain cells. Social isolation can cause atrophy of brain cells and cognitive impairment.
How Tooth Loss Leads to Dementia?
Dementia is an advanced stage of cognitive impairment. People with dementia have a severe loss of mental functions such as memory, language, judgment, planning. People with dementia cannot perform daily life activities, take care of themselves and lose their connection with reality.
The mechanisms by which tooth loss leads to dementia are similar to those of cognitive impairment. However, dementia is a more serious condition and requires more brain damage. The nutritional disorder, inflammation and social isolation caused by tooth loss are factors that can lead to dementia.
There is also scientific evidence that tooth loss leads to dementia. Many studies have shown a relationship between tooth loss and dementia. For example, a study conducted in 2013 found that people with less than 10 teeth had a 62% higher risk of dementia than others. Similarly, a meta-analysis conducted in 2017 found that tooth loss increased the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 1.16 times.
What to Do to Prevent Tooth Loss?
There are some things we can do to prevent tooth loss for both dental and brain health. These are:
- Going to the dentist regularly and checking dental and gum health
- Brushing teeth at least twice a day and using dental floss
- Avoiding sugary, acidic and sticky foods
- Being careful with hard or hot foods
- Not smoking and drinking alcohol
- Eating a balanced and healthy diet
- Getting enough vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids for the brain
- Doing physical activity
- Keeping social relationships alive
- Doing mental exercises
Tooth loss is not just an aesthetic problem, but also a serious risk factor for brain health. People who experience tooth loss have an increased risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. Therefore, preventing tooth loss is important for both dental and brain health.