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Gum disease linked to dementia?

22 August 2012

Gum disease linked to dementia?

The link between brushing and health is not a new one, with studies showing that there can be a link between gum disease and heart attacks. However, new research has shown that remembering to brush could result in a reduced risk of developing dementia in later life.

The study followed 5,500 elderly people for an 18 year period and found that those who brushed their teeth less than once a day were up to 65% more likely to develop dementia than those who brushed 3 times a day.

The study’s lead author, Annlia Paganini-Hill, said, “Not only does the state of your mind predict what kind of oral health habits you practise, it may be that your oral health habits influence whether or not you get dementia.”

Other research has found that the same bacteria produced due to gum disease could be linked to the bacteria in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

The latest study investigated the claim that gum disease bacteria may cause inflammation and brain damage when it reaches the brain. The 5,500 participants were tracked from 1992 to 2010 and over this period 1,145 had developed dementia. Of those who brushed less than once a day, 1 per 3.7 women developed the condition, compared to 1 in every 4.5 women, who brushed at least once a day.

Jessica Smith, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘There have been a number of studies looking at the link between inflammation caused by factors including poor dental health and dementia, but this link is not yet fully understood.’

Amber Watts, who studies dementia at the University of Kansas, has questioned the results by saying, “Head injury and malnutrition are also important causes of tooth loss in adults, and either of those might increase the dementia risk. I would be reluctant to draw the conclusion that brushing your teeth would definitely prevent you from getting Alzheimer’s disease.”