Could this daily routine prevent dementia?
More than 47 million people across the globe have dementia, and there are 7.7 million new cases reported each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is the buildup of amyloid plaques in the brain early on in the disease.
A study by researchers at the University of Southern California in the journal Neurobiology of Aging suggests there may be a link between people’s oral health practices and dementia.
Their findings: elderly people with a history of periodontal inflammation due to a buildup of dental plaque and bacteria around the gums had an increased risk of developing dementia. Other studies have suggested that dental disease may also lead to higher levels of brain amyloid and more rapid cognitive decline.
Previous reports have suggested an association between periodontal disease and heart disease, stroke and diabetes. This study suggests that the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease may also be related to poor dental health. Might brushing your teeth and maintaining proper oral hygiene help prevent dementia?
Dr. Darren Gitelman, senior medical director at the Advocate Memory Center located at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., believes that this research is important, but more work needs to be done.
“The precise mechanisms by which periodontal disease may increase the risk of dementia are not entirely clear,” says Dr. Gitelman. “Some studies have suggested that the chronic oral inflammation associated with periodontal disease may be the culprit, but not all studies have shown a linkage with dementia. Furthermore, there are currently no recommended clinical tests of this inflammation.”
Despite these study limitations, Dr. Gitelman’s take home message is that taking care of one’s oral health is important and may have a variety of health benefits.
To learn more about the risk factors for gum disease, visit this resource.
About the Author
Marrison Worthington, health enews contributor, is a public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois. She is a graduate of Illinois State University and has several years of global corporate communications experience under her belt. Marrison loves spending her free time traveling, reading organizational development blogs, trying new cooking recipes, and playing with her golden retriever, Ari.