Brushing and flossing are good for your brain?

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Memory | Wednesday, November 05, 2014 - 05:02 AM

Alzheimer's disease, cancerMost people know the bare basics of dental hygiene. If you don’t brush and floss regularly, it can lead to a number of issues ranging from tooth decay to gum disease.

However, there is a whole other area you may not have considered. New information has surfaced showing a connection between oral hygiene and Alzheimer’s disease.

A healthy smile is far more important than you realize…

New York University (NYU) researchers have made the link between gum inflammation and Alzheimer’s disease. They reviewed 20 years of information looking specifically at the association between the two. The researchers examined data from 152 subjects in Copenhagen as part of Denmark’s Glostrop Aging Study.

The study spanned a 20-year period which ended in 1984, when the participants were all over the age of 70. Researchers examined the medical, psychological and oral health of non-disabled men and women.

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Gum disease puts you at risk for Alzheimer’s

The results were interesting. The link between gum inflammation and Alzheimer’s disease was noted in participants who had other risk factors associated with lower adult IQs, like obesity, cigarette smoking and tooth loss not related to gum inflammation. The same information applied to the 50-to-70 age range, too. So the connection was also seen in a younger generation.

Past connections brought to light

Research from Harvard School of Public Health revealed the association between gum disease and pancreatic cancer in 2007. Even though researchers were unable to prove that a severe form of gum bacteria (called periodontitis) caused pancreatic cancer, they were able to find a link.

Periodontitis damages the tissue that supports your teeth and can lead to the loss of bone around the base of your teeth. This type of gum disease has potential to increase the risk of pancreatic cancer because of the higher levels of oral bacteria and nitrosamines, which are cancer-causing, in the mouths of those affected.

Although it’s not directly linked to an increased cancer risk, gingivitis eventually can lead to periodontitis because of the severity of the oral bacteria. So now you have even more reason to keep your smile healthy.

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Prevention strategy for Alzheimer’s disease

Although NYU’s findings are still under investigation, researchers agree that proper dental hygiene is really important in lowering your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. NYU plans to conduct a follow-up study involving a larger, more ethnically diverse group of participants. The aim is to further explain the connection between gum inflammation and low cognition.

Try to think about this way: Your mouth is the dirtiest place in the human body. It’s a perfect environment for growing bacteria, viruses and fungi – it’s warm and dark, food goes in several times a day, and there are lots of nooks and crannies where food bits can get trapped.

In fact, more than 700 different types of bacteria are taking up residence in your mouth at a given moment. Not all are harmful, and so long as they remain in balance even disease-causing bacteria can be OK. It’s when they get out of balance that your teeth and gums can be damaged.

Brush and floss, please!

Try not to get too alarmed because maintaining your dental health is pretty easy in the grand scheme of things.

There are measures you can take to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. For one thing, the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) recommends you brush for two minutes, twice every day. The ADHA guidelines also stress the importance of flossing daily and rinsing with mouthwash.

I like an easy fix! These truly are simple steps if you are concerned about your overall health. And with Alzheimer’s disease so prevalent today, and cancer being a leading cause of death, lowering your risk for illness should be at the top of your agenda.

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