Dental experts share how teeth brushing could ward off dementia


healthy


This is not a drill.

Dental experts stress the importance of keeping teeth and gums healthy, especially as research links poor oral hygiene to dementia.

“The public needs to be more aware of the correlation between oral health and cognitive ability,” Jiashu Lin, a professor of dentistry at Taiwan's National Yang-Ming Chiao Tung University, told Newsweek last week.

Lin's team recently analyzed 28 systematic reviews on the relationship between oral health and cognitive impairment, calling on researchers to clarify the cause-and-effect relationship between the two factors.

“With dementia, patients' self-care abilities deteriorate,” explained Lin, whose findings were published in the journal Aging Research Reviews. “For example, patients with Alzheimer’s disease may find it difficult to brush their teeth, which further worsens oral health and cognitive function—a deterioration in this self-care behavior may trigger a ‘vicious cycle’ that aggravates a person’s inherent Very poor health.

Dental experts stress the importance of keeping teeth and gums healthy, especially as research links poor oral hygiene to dementia. Getty Images

Lin points out that just brushing your teeth doesn't mean you won't develop dementia, which is the loss of memory, language, reasoning and thinking skills.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5.8 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, which also reports that about 68% of adults age 65 and older have gum disease.

Gum disease, also called periodontitis, occurs when plaque (a sticky substance containing bacteria) builds up on the teeth. Regular brushing and flossing can remove plaque.

A 2019 study found the presence of Porphyromonas gingivalis in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, a leading cause of periodontitis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5.8 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, which also reports that about 68% of adults age 65 and older have gum disease. Getty Images

Inflammation can also cause problems that affect the brain. Periodontal disease is characterized by chronic inflammation of the gums and bone surrounding the teeth.

A 2022 study noted that “systemic inflammation can have deleterious consequences for the brain.”

“The whole body is fighting this bacteria,” Anita Visser, a professor of geriatric dentistry at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, explained oral bacteria to The Washington Post in September.The immune system is really stimulated and alert and works very hard to fight these germs.

Researchers hope to fill the gap in the relationship between oral health and dementia to determine whether poor oral hygiene is simply a symptom of dementia or its cause.

“It's really complicated,” Visser said. “That's why we can't say, 'Oh, if you have periodontitis, you're going to get Alzheimer's.'” But we now know that if you have severe periodontitis, you're going to get Alzheimer's. The chance of mutism is even greater.

Gum disease is characterized by chronic inflammation and the presence of bacteria, which can be harmful to the brain. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Meanwhile, Mario Dioguardi, a dental science researcher at the University of Foggia in Italy, hopes that word-of-mouth will encourage people to pay more attention to their dental hygiene habits.

Raising awareness of the increased risk of Alzheimer's disease associated with tooth loss and periodontitis can increase attention to oral health,” Dioguardi told The Washington Post.


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1/14/24



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