According to a new study, adults genetically predisposed to poor oral health are more likely than others to have brain changes associated with cognitive decline.
According to the preliminary results of a new study, people genetically predisposed to cavities and other dental problems are more likely to develop structural changes in the brain associated with cognitive decline.
Previous research has linked oral health problems, such as gum disease, missing teeth, poor brushing habits, and plaque buildup, to an increased risk of stroke and toothache. risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure. What wasn’t clear was whether poor oral health affected brain health, or the functional state of a person’s brain. Researchers are now able to gain insight using neuroimaging tools such as magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. The study of oral health is particularly important because poor oral health is common and is an easily modifiable risk factor. Anyone can effectively improve their oral health with minimal time and financial investment.
Poor oral health genes linked to structural brain damage
For the new study, researchers looked at data from around 40,000 adults with no history of stroke who took part in the UK Biobank, an ongoing medical study. Participants were screened for more than 100 genetic variants known to predispose people to cavities, dentures and missing teeth later in life. Participants also underwent brain MRI to detect structural damage and white matter hyperintensities, both of which are associated with an increased risk of stroke and impaired memory, balance, and functioning. mobility.
People genetically predisposed to cavities, missing teeth, or the need for dentures had a greater amount of white matter hyperintensification and structural damage visible on their MRI images.
Poor oral health can lead to declining brain health, so we need to be very careful about our oral hygiene, as it has implications far beyond the mouth. However, this study is preliminary, and more evidence is needed to confirm that improving oral health in the population will lead to brain health benefits. More data is needed to explain the link between oral health and brain health
Beyond its preliminary nature, one limitation of the study is that the UK Biobank results, with predominantly white and European participants, may not represent what would happen for people of other backgrounds. ethnic.
Further studies needed
The study also doesn’t know if good oral health habits can prevent brain changes associated with strokes and cognitive decline, or how important the role of genetics is in That relation. Environmental factors such as smoking and health conditions like diabetes are much stronger risk factors for poor oral health than any genetic marker except for the rare genetic conditions associated with poor oral health. oral health, such as defective or missing enamel.
It is always good advice to pay attention to hygiene and oral health. However, since people with poor brain health are likely to be less attentive to good oral health compared to people with normal brain health, it is impossible to prove cause and effect.