Brushing your teeth properly could help stave off dementia, according to a study.
Japanese researchers found that gum disease and tooth loss are linked to a higher risk of the deadly disease.
People with poor oral hygiene saw greater shrinkage of the hippocampus – a part of the brain linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
dr Satoshi Yamaguchi of Tohoku University in Sendai said: “Tooth loss and gum disease are very common, so assessing a possible link to dementia is incredibly important.”
“Our study found that these disorders may play a role in the health of the brain area that controls thinking and memory.
“It gives people another reason to take better care of their teeth.”
Around 900,000 Britons have dementia and experts predict the number will rise to 1.6 million by 2040.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of the disease and is thought to be caused by the buildup of proteins in the brain, including tau and amyloid.
Most Britons suffer from some form of gum disease, with gingivitis being the most common form, affecting around 55 per cent of adults.
It is caused by inflammation of the tissues around the teeth, which can lead to shrinking of the gums and loosening of the teeth.
Previous research has shown that the condition can cause inflammation of the brain, which can lead to dementia.
Research shows that it also carries a higher risk of complications related to heart disease, such as angina, heart failure, or heart attack.
The latest study, published in Neurology, looked at how gum disease affects the size of organ parts associated with the disease.
The researchers studied 172 people with an average age of 67 who had no memory problems to begin with.
At baseline and four years later, participants underwent dental exams, memory tests, and brain scans to see how oral hygiene affected their risk of dementia.
They found that people with gum disease or missing teeth had brain shrinkage faster than people with healthy gums.
The drop in people with mild gum disease who lost a tooth was equivalent to almost a year of brain aging.
This was equivalent to 1.3 years of brain aging in people with severe gum disease who were missing a tooth.
dr Yamaguchi said, “These results underscore the importance of maintaining dental health, not just maintaining teeth.”
“The results suggest that tooth preservation in severe gum disease is associated with brain atrophy.
“It is critical to control the progression of gum disease with regular dental visits, and teeth with severe gum disease may need to be extracted and replaced.”
What are the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?
In the early stages, memory lapses are the main symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.
For example, someone with early-stage Alzheimer’s might:
- Forget current conversations or events
- move objects
- Forget the names of places and objects
- Difficulty thinking of the right word
- Ask repeated questions
- demonstrate poor judgment or find it more difficult to make decisions
- become less flexible and more reluctant to try new things
There are often signs of mood swings, such as increasing anxiety or agitation, or bouts of confusion.
Source: The NHS