Brush and floss daily to ward off Alzheimer’s, doctors say
KUOPIO, Finland — An international study reveals that people with poor dental hygiene are 21% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
Those with bad teeth or failing oral health are also 23% more likely to develop cognitive decline, which often leads to a devastating condition that steals memory. The scientists pooled data from 47 studies around the world. The findings underscore the importance of regular brushing and flossing, especially in middle age.
Lead author Dr Sam Asher of the University of Eastern Finland adds that tooth loss independently increases the risk of cognitive decline (23%) and dementia (13%). The findings have clinical implications, as regular visits to the dentist may help prevent dementia, the researchers say.
Globally, the number of dementia cases will triple to more than 150 million by 2050, according to estimates. With no cure in sight, there is an increasing focus on lifestyle changes that keep the mind sharp.
“Periodontitis is the inflammation of the supporting tissues of the teeth which, in severe cases, leads to tooth loss. It affects approximately 10-15% of the adult population worldwide,” the study authors write in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Gum disease can lead to problems throughout the body
Previous studies have linked gum disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It can even lead to chronic systemic inflammation, says Dr. Asher.
Tooth loss can cause people to eat less nutritious diets. Additionally, chewing stimulates blood and oxygen flow to the brain. The analysis is among the largest of its kind. It involved over a million participants, many of whom followed for over a decade.
“The results of this review may indicate the involvement of multiple mechanisms in the association between periodontal and cognitive health,” the researchers write.
Gum disease is thought to kill neurons by increasing the number of inflammatory chemicals in the blood.
“Systemic inflammation on its own is an independent determinant of cognitive deterioration and links other risk factors, including diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and even aging, to cognitive deterioration.”
Tooth loss can also impair brain power by reducing jaw strength, leading to loss of gray matter. Dr. Asher says dentists are well placed to monitor and intervene in early changes in gum health and oral care. However, services must remain consistent over time, while patients also maintain their own dental health at home when dentists discover a problem.
“From a clinical perspective, our results underscore the importance of periodontal health monitoring and management in the context of dementia prevention, although the available evidence is not yet sufficient to indicate ways clear ways of early identification of people at risk, and the most effective. measures to prevent cognitive deterioration,” the authors conclude in a Press release.
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.