You might not think of your teeth as affecting your overall health. You probably especially don’t connect the state of your teeth with your brain. But the plain truth is that your oral health absolutely does affect your brain health. The way you take care of your teeth can affect how your brain functions. That’s even more reason to make sure you’re brushing and flossing, as well as going to the dentist for regular cleanings.
So, what are the ways that your oral health affects your brain health?
Believe it or not, there’s medical evidence to suggest that the way you take care of your teeth may affect whether you get Alzheimer’s disease. Preliminary studies have shown that there is a link between gum disease and the amount of brain decline in the early progression of Alzheimer’s. Research is still being conducted, but the current theory is that those with gum disease have higher levels of bacteria in their bloodstream (absorbed through the unhealthy gums). Their brain is continuously exposed to these bacteria, accelerating deterioration.
And it’s not just Alzheimer’s disease. It’s any type of cognitive disease that affects memory and cell deterioration. It’s a compelling reason to make sure you avoid gum disease at all costs!
Losing teeth due to inadequate oral hygiene also has effects on the neuroplasticity of the brain. Adults who have lost several teeth have higher rates of anxiety and depression and often experience emotional fluctuations and other emotional issues. The way the brain processes emotions and experiences changes as a result of tooth loss. It seems like an amazing claim, and the fact is, science hasn’t yet discovered conclusively how this works exactly. But research does show that tooth loss and gum disease can influence the way the brain functions in regard to emotion and memory.
All of this is a particularly timely subject. Brain Awareness Week, an international effort focused on the ongoing research in brain disease and function, occurs every year in mid-March. Oral health would be a great subject for this year’s conferences. There is certainly a need for more research to establish stronger, more defined links between tooth decay, tooth loss, gum disease, and brain function.
Brain Awareness Week began in the mid-90s as an effort in the United States to discuss current scientific neurological research. A quarter of a century later, the event has spread to all corners of the globe. Conferences and other events will happen all over the world as people come together to discuss important topics. But it’s not just for experts: Brain Awareness Week events can also include school children, government officials, seniors, businesses, and many more.
Some events feature tours of neuroscience laboratories or museums for school trips. Others include lectures on neuroscience or public awareness campaigns on related topics. Perhaps a good awareness campaign this year would be on the importance of using good oral care, including brushing, flossing, and going to regular dental check-ups to keep your mouth in top shape.