It has been demonstrated that a loss of teeth is a troublesome problem among age-related pathological phenomena of the oral cavity, which influences the entire body, due to the impairment of mastication. The present studies investigated the abilities of learning and memory and acetylcholine (ACh) release in the parietal cortex in aged rats without molar teeth (hereafter referred to as 'teethless'). After the molar teeth of rats were extracted, the rats were fed with powdered food for 135 weeks. Although the performance in the radial arm maze was progressively acquired by daily training, an increase in the number of errors and a decrease in the initial correct responses were observed in the teethless aged rats compared to the control aged rats, indicating impaired acquisition of spatial memory in the teethless aged rats. The basal level of extracelluar ACh in the parietal cortex was not different between the teethless aged rats and the control aged rats. However, the extracellular ACh level of the teethless aged rats under high-concentration of K+ and atropine sulfate stimulation was significantly low compared to that of the control aged rats. These results suggest that the impairment of spatial memory in the teethless aged rats may be due to the functional deterioration of the cholinergic neuronal system induced by tooth loss and that there is a possibility that the loss of teeth may be one of the risk factors for senile dementia.
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