WHEN your dentist pulls
an aching tooth they could be yanking out some of your memory at
the same time, according to a new Swedish study to be presented
in Stockholm tomorrow.
"Teeth appear to be of the utmost importance to our memories,"
Jan Bergdahl, an associate psychology professor at the Umeaa
University in northern Sweden, a dentist and one of the authors
of the study, said today.
For the study, which is part of a broader
memory study called Betulastudien, researchers followed 1962
people aged 35 to 90 starting in 1988, comparing the memories of
those who still had teeth and those who had pulled all their
teeth and were using dentures.
"When people have no teeth their memories
are clearly worse than when they have teeth," Mr Bergdahl
Recent Japanese studies on rats and monkeys
have shown the link between teeth and memory but according to Mr
Bergdahl this is the first large-scale study on humans that
clearly connects the same dots.
While the Swedish research has
yet to unveil what impact pulling a single tooth has on the
human memory, Mr Bergdahl said that "going forward, we plan to
look into how many teeth a person has to lose before it affects
their memory. We will also investigate how tooth decay affects
memory loss, and what affect tooth implants have".
He insisted however that he didn't expect
future studies to reveal that implants improve memory.
"I don't think that is very probable. Animal
tests have shown that pulling teeth severs nerves to the
brain," Mr Bergdahl said, pointing out that the new Swedish
study could dramatically change dental care for the elderly in
"We might want to think twice before
pulling out teeth that are a problem," he said.
From correspondents in Stockholm, Sweden October