While having an imperfect smile can have an impact on your self-esteem, there is something much deeper that can go on if you do not take care of your oral health. In fact, poor oral health can be linked to various health conditions, but one surprising and emerging connection is the link between dental care and dementia.
The Importance of Dental Health
A healthy mouth is not just a sign of a beautiful smile but is indicative of maintaining proper oral hygiene, which can prevent oral diseases like tooth decay and gum disease. Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a common problem characterized by infection and inflammation of the gums.
In fact, chronic gum disease can be a sign of systemic inflammation throughout the body, which could contribute to other health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. However, its link to dementia has developed as a major surprise.
The Link Between Gum Disease and Dementia
Recent studies have shown a surprising connection between oral health and dementia. According to a study in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society, results showed that after a number of dental examinations conducted on adults averaging 67 years old (both with and without memory issues), those with poor oral hygiene were considered at a higher risk of developing dementia than those with good oral hygiene.
Another study published in the Neurology journal suggests that brushing your teeth can boost the brain, helping to reduce the risk of dementia. According to Professor Alpdogan Kantarci, an oral health researcher, dental implant surgeon, and faculty member at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, the risk of Alzheimer’s or neurodegenerative diseases can increase with the presence of periodontal oral disease by between 1.5 and twofold. While more studies are needed, the fact that bad oral health can cause dementia is gaining attention.
There are some theories as to how the connection between gum disease and the risk of dementia has come to be. While it’s not fully understood, some of the theories include the following:
- Inflammation, especially chronic inflammation caused by gum disease, may trigger a number of inflammatory responses in the brain that could contribute to the development of age-related cognitive decline.
- Bacterial infections, as the bacteria associated with gum disease may enter the bloodstream and potentially impact the brain. This could lead to the formation of potential dysfunction and destruction of brain cells and brain plaques, which are commonly characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Shared risk factors such as smoking and diabetes are often associated with a higher risk of both periodontal disease and dementia, which could contribute to the link.
- Systemic effects of gum disease, which may have an impact on cognitive function, such as chronic inflammation and how it may impair blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain.
The Best Ways to Improve Oral Health
The potential connection between dementia and dental care highlights the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene throughout our lives. The best approach is to undertake preventative measures, including the following:
- Staying active, as regular physical activity can help reduce the risks of chronic diseases and inflammation, and maintain good oral health.
- Managing chronic conditions by working with your healthcare providers to look at any potential risk factors and make lifestyle alterations where necessary.
- Quitting smoking, which can reduce the risk of gum disease that may contribute to dementia.
- A healthy and balanced diet that includes foods that aid oral health.
- Practicing good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth and flossing.
- Regular checkups, which are critical for the early detection and treatment of any signs of gum disease and other oral health issues, even from an early age.
As you can see, the surprising connection between dental care and dementia highlights just how important it is to look after your oral health. While more research is needed to understand the link, evidence suggests that the simple practices of looking after your oral health and taking preventative measures to address the earliest signs of gum disease may be invaluable in the long run. We should never underestimate the impact our dental care routine can have on our well-being, and for this reason alone, we should always place our oral health as a priority.
Call Your Richmond, VA Dentist for Guidance
If you’ve got questions or are looking for guidance on the latest research about dental care, the professional team at the Cosmetic and Laser Dental Spa of Richmond will be happy to discuss your options so you can make the best choice for your oral health. Give us a call today!