Sunday, December 17, 2006

Does Pulling Teeth Erase Memory?

news you may not know


Not The Teeth!

"Did you remember to brush?"

If this question causes you to tilt your head to one side, bite your lower lip, narrow your eyes, scrunch your forehead and, finally, answer with a loud sigh and an unknowing shrug, the situation is obvious: you have no teeth to brush.

...It may be true.

Scientists in Sweden have shown a connection between the loss of teeth and the loss of memory. Japanese researchers had previously shown this connection in mice and monkeys. In those experiments, mice first learned to find food within a complex labyrinth. Once their teeth were extracted they no longer were able to find their way through the maze. (Of course, scientists admit they have no means of testing whether the toothless mice simply decided, "What's the point?")

The Swedish scientists expanded the research and conducted the first large scale tests involving humans. The study, which began in 1988, followed nearly 2,000 individuals between the ages of 35 and 90. The results indicate that people with a full set of natural teeth have better memories than those who had lost their teeth and were using dentures.

The manner of loss also appears to be significant, with tooth extraction being most detrimental to memory. Cranial nerves directly connect each tooth to the brain. So, when a tooth is extracted it also pulls out the connecting nerve - ouch! Could this be the cause of the memory loss? A little bit of memory yanked out, rinsed away with a hint of mint at the dentist's office? It's possible.

Researchers have yet to determine the exact reason for the correlation between tooth loss and loss of memory. It is known that mastication, the simple act of chewing one's food, does more than prepare the food for swallowing and digestion. The act also serves as a form of oral aerobics, causing oxygen-rich blood to flow to the head and brain. It's also known that people chew with greater vigor when they have their own teeth.

What's the bottom line? Well, for one, be careful when your dentist debates whether to pull your wisdom tooth or put on a crown. Look her square in the eyes and say, "That one? Wow - that's connected to my third grade summer vacation... my first real crush. " Then, a dreamy look crossing your eyes, sit back and sigh, "I think I'll go with the crown."


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2:04 AM  
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