We have long seen evidence that dementia is worse in people who have lost teeth. However, because of the complex factors involved, we haven’t been able to make a strong causal link or say for certain that tooth replacement could improve brain function.
But now a study shows that using dental implants could provide measurable improvement to brain function. This gives us even stronger reasons to recommend dental implants for tooth replacement.
Measuring Brain Function Before and After Implants
One of the mysteries that researchers have long been trying to figure out is just how chewing could directly impact cognitive function. We’re still not entirely certain, but researchers are getting closer.
In animal brains, we’ve been able to observe that the loss of teeth leads to a loss of brain cells. This is not as easy to measure in human brains–especially living ones. One of the observed effects of asymmetric tooth loss is pupil asymmetry: one is bigger than another. This may seem like a minor detail, but it’s also something we observe with major brain dysfunctions such as drug overdose and stroke. So we might take this as a sign that something is going wrong in the brain related to tooth loss.
Researchers wanted to build on this work and see if dental implants could potentially reverse this effect. To test it, they took nine patients who had lost their first and second molars on one side, and used dental implants to restore the occlusion in the deficient side.
They tested the symmetry of the pupils both with and without the dental implants. And they tested cognitive function as well.
They found that pupil asymmetry was decreased when the dental implants were in. They also found that cognitive function was significantly improved with the dental implants in.
A Direct Pathway from the Jaw to the Brain
Along with the pupil and cognitive measurements, researchers looked at muscle activity, using electromyography (similar to what we do when diagnosing TMJ). They found that muscle activity correlated well with pupil asymmetry, and they argued that this is one of the key mechanisms.
When the muscles are active, they stimulate the release of certain growth factors that are key to the maintenance of nerves. These in turn stimulate the trigeminal nerve, which then influences key structures in the brain.
Over the immediate term, researchers speculate that this could lead to the pupil asymmetry. Over the longer term, they say that declining growth factors could contribute to “long-term neurodegenerative processes.”
Another Reason Dental Implants Are the Best
There are many arguments for dental implants being the best tooth replacement option. The restoration of normal function is definitely something that dental implants do best. And if the restoration of normal bite function is crucial to maintaining cognitive faculties, then it seems likely dental implants are the best choice for that reason, too.
If you are looking for a tooth replacement that can contribute to long-term physical and mental health, dental implants are the best choice. Please call (912) 234-8282 today for an appointment with a Savannah implant dentist at Beyond Exceptional Dentistry.