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In brief: Retaining diseased teeth associated with brain atrophy

July 11, 2023
Learn about a study that links gum disease and tooth loss to brain shrinkage; the popularity of dental professions on TikTok; and more.
Elizabeth S. Leaver, Digital content manager

Tooth loss, gum disease linked to brain shrinkage

A new study appears to corroborate the body of research on the effect of oral health on brain health. Research published earlier this month in Neurology found that poor oral health is linked to shrinkage in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that plays a role in memory and Alzheimer's disease. The study doesn’t prove causation between oral health and cognitive conditions but “found that tooth loss and gum disease … may play a role in the health of the brain area that controls thinking and memory, giving people another reason to take better care of their teeth," noted study author Satoshi Yamaguchi, PhD, DDS, of Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan.

What’s more, Yamaguchi said, "These results highlight the importance of preserving the health of the teeth and not just retaining the teeth. The findings suggest that retaining teeth with severe gum disease is associated with brain atrophy. Controlling the progression of gum disease through regular dental visits is crucial, and teeth with severe gum disease may need to be extracted and replaced with appropriate prosthetic devices."

How popular are dental professions on TikTok?

According to RegisteredNursing.org, TikTok users have spent some 4 billion hours watching videos about 35 professions, including dentists—#5 in the ranking, with 32.8 billion views—and dental hygienists, ranked at #17 with 3.4 billion views. It also estimates the time spent watching dentist TikToks at more than 336,000,000 hours.

ADA supports bill that prohibits insurers from setting fees for in-network dentists

The ADA is expressing and urging support for the Dental and Optometric Care Access Act, bipartisan legislation that would “prohibit dental and vision plans from setting the fees network doctors may charge for services not covered by the insurers,” said ADA president George R. Shepley, DDS, in an email to member dentists and in the ADA's release on the legislation.

According to the release, the bill would also prevent plans from establishing nominal payments for otherwise noncovered services in an effort to have such services considered covered inappropriately; limit network agreements to two years for each contract extension unless the doctor agrees to accept a longer contract extension; and preserve doctors’ freedom of choice in laboratories.

ICYMI: Continuing challenges recruiting for dental hygienist, assistant roles

Results from a recent tracking poll by the ADA Health Policy Institute (HPI), showed that a third of dentists polled are actively recruiting dental hygienists and assistants, with nearly all the dentists recruiting for a hygienist—94.5%—indicating that filling that role is “extremely challenging” or “very challenging,” up from 92.4% a year ago. Those percentages for dental assistants have remained steady from June 2022 to 2023, at 84% and 83.7% respectively.