Neglecting Your Teeth Could Increase the Risk of Dementia

Published:August 22nd, 2012

A new study conducted in the US has pointed towards a possible links between neglecting your oral health and an increased risk of suffering from dementia. The study was carried out over an 18 year period, and followed 5,500 older people, so it was quite a large undertaking. It found people who didn’t brush their teeth on a daily basis could be up to 65% more at risk of developing dementia compared to those who brushed their teeth at least once a day.

The study, carried out by researchers at the University of California, was led by Annlia Paganini-Hill who pointed out that not only could your oral health be affected by the state of your mind, but that oral habits could influence whether or not you will suffer from dementia.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and certain studies have shown an increase in plaque bacteria in the brains of people suffering from this condition compared to those who don’t have this disease. The theory is that these bacteria , once they enter the brain, could cause inflammation and brain damage.

The study followed the residents of a retirement community between 1992 and 2010 where the average age was 81. At the beginning of the study each resident was asked about their dental health, and whether or not they wore dentures. The researchers followed up on the residents 18 years later using interviews, medical records and death certificates to determine the percentage of people subsequently diagnosed with dementia.

They found out of the group of 78 women who had said they brushed teeth less than once a day, 21 had gone on to develop dementia which works out at roughly one case per 3.7 women. Amongst women who brushed their teeth at least once a day this figure was closer to one in every 4.5 women. This means those women who brushed their teeth less than once a day potentially increased their chances of developing dementia by around 65%.

The results amongst the men were not so conclusive. Just one in six men who brushed less than once a day went on to develop the disease. This meant less than 22% of men who failed to brush regularly were likely to go on to develop dementia, a result that could be considered statistically insignificant.

The information gained by this study is quite limited as the researchers didn’t carry out any dental examinations, and there could have been other factors at play that weren’t taken into account. Even though it’s impossible to conclude that brushing regularly could help prevent you developing Alzheimer’s disease, it’s yet another study showing a possible link between gum disease and another life changing condition.

Gum disease has already been linked with numerous other serious health conditions including cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and it’s impossible to ignore the importance of having good oral health. Your daily oral hygiene routine only takes around 10 minutes out of your day, and considering the protection this may give your overall health, then it is time well spent.

About the author

Alison, is a UK born and educated dental professional with over 25 years experience.

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