According to a recent study conducted by the American Heart Association, a hereditary predisposition for poor dental health may be linked to an increased burden of cerebrovascular disease.
The presence of white matter hyperintensities, which are accumulating areas of damage to the brain's white matter, was utilized by the researchers as proof that cerebrovascular disease existed.
The ensuing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans revealed that there was a 24% increase in white matter hyperintensities in the brains of people who were genetically predisposed to edentulism or caries.
The likelihood for problems with balance, movement, and memory are associated with the white matter hyperintensities. For the subjects, the researchers also calculated scores for microstructural damage. According to photos from a typical brain scan of a healthy adult of a similar age, microstructural damage is the degree to which the fine architecture of the brain has changed.
The samples were made up mostly of people with European ancestry who were from the UK using information from the UK Biobank. They were tested for 105 potential genetic changes related to dental caries, eventual denture use, or any other type of edentulism. The microstructural damage score increased to 43% when a subject had generalized poor oral health beyond caries and edentulism due to genetics, according to the study.
Lead author Dr Cyprien Rivier, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven in Connecticut, commented in a press release: “Studying oral health is especially important because poor oral health happens frequently and is an easily modifiable risk factor—everyone can effectively improve their oral health with minimal time and financial investment.” Dr Rivier also noted the value of using neuroimaging tools such as MRI to assess the impact of oral health upon brain function.
The results, according to Dr. Joseph P. Broderick, professor in the University of Cincinnati Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine and a participant in the Stroke Council, should motivate further study but do not provide proof that better oral hygiene would lead to better brain health. He pointed out that genetic factors for some illnesses may also contribute to poor dental health. According to Dr. Broderick, "environmental variables like smoking and health disorders like diabetes are considerably bigger risk factors for having poor oral health than any genetic marker, with the exception of rare genetic diseases linked to having poor dental health like missing or faulty enamel."
The research was presented at the 2023 International Stroke Conference of the American Stroke Association.