Oral & Vision Health Blog

Healthy Mouth, Healthy Mind: the Dementia and Oral Hygiene Connection

If you practice good oral hygiene throughout your life, there's an excellent chance your teeth will be healthy through your elder years. But recent research indicates that taking care of your teeth benefits you in your golden years in a much more profound way. These studies point to a dementia and oral hygiene connection. According to the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease:

People with poor oral hygiene or gum disease may be at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a new study led by The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) School of Medicine and Dentistry suggests.

Researchers believe the bacteria porphyromonas gingivalis plays a role in the development of dementia. This bacteria is often present in the mouth, and contributes to gum disease. Brain tissue from dementia patients contained porphyromonas gingivalis in 4 out of the 10 samples studied, but none of the control samples showed signs of the bacteria.

A second study, reported by Reuters, seems to back up these findings:

Researchers followed close to 5,500 elderly people over an 18-year period. They found those who reported brushing their teeth less than once a day were up to 65 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who brushed daily.

Developing good oral hygiene habits is important for people of any age. Below are some tips to keeping your mouth in the best possible health."Not only does the state of your mind predict what kind of oral health habits you practice, it may be that your oral health habits influence whether or not you get dementia," said Annlia Paganini-Hill, who led the study at the University of California.

  1. Brush and floss your teeth after every meal, or at least twice a day. Take a full two minutes, and brush all surfaces thoroughly. Be sure to clean the tongue, as it harbors a great deal of bacteria.
  2. Use toothpaste or mouth rinse that contains fluoride to help strengthen tooth enamel.
  3. Avoid foods that can weaken tooth enamel or promote decay, such as foods high in sugar or acid.
  4. Avoid using teeth as tools to open packages, crack nuts, etc. as this can cause teeth to chip or break.
  5. To keep teeth their whitest, stay away from coffee, tea, and red wine.
  6. If you smoke, quit. Smoking causes a host of oral problems, from plaque and tartar build up to gum disease and cancer.
  7. Protect teeth from injury by wearing a mouth guard when playing sports.
  8. Visit your dentist at least twice annually.

Practicing good dental hygiene is an important part of keeping your whole body healthy. And as we're now discovering, it could protect your brain from the ravages of age, as well. So see your dentist twice a year, brush and floss twice a day, and enjoy a long and healthy life.

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