Reducing the Likelihood of a Dementia Diagnosis by Taking Care of Your Teeth

When was the last time you saw your dentist to have your teeth cleaned?

I recently went for my semi-annual dental cleaning. The dental hygienist was exceptional. No pain. My teeth were clean and polished in less than an hour. The hygienist showed me a new way to floss my teeth, which I call the “X” method. Rather than flossing straight in between the teeth, one makes an “X” pattern with the floss in between all teeth. This serves to remove more plaque and removes the food that becomes stuck between our teeth. Why is this little brushing and flossing detail important?

Tooth loss, gingivitis, and periodontal disease result in chronic infection that, according to research, contribute to a diagnosis of dementia.

The bacteria in your mouth and build-up of plaque increase the risk of atherosclerosis which in simple terms is build-up of plaque in the bloodstream that may result in chronic heart disease. Treating periodontal disease can reduce the risk of stroke, esophageal cancer, and heart attacks.1
Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease related to other systemic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, breathing diseases, and cancer.

Who would have thought that plaque build-up in your mouth relates to plaque build-up in your body and in the brain? You’ve heard that memory loss is associated with plaques and tangles. Chronic diseases that affect the circulatory system increase the likelihood of a diagnosis of memory loss. Plaque is present in the mouth and in the bloodstream. The simple act of having your teeth cleaned is a protective factor for your overall health.

For those of you working in industries where you commonly come into contact with persons diagnosed with dementia, you are aware that a decline in functional capacity resulted in this diagnosis. What one simple daily activity can you take to prevent your own functional decline? Brush and floss your teeth twice daily.

Oral health affects higher level functional capacity meaning physical, cognitive and social communication abilities.2 One might ask the logic of this statement. As with many self-care activities, not brushing teeth creates a chain reaction of events of which we are not aware.

Tooth loss is a function of not taking care of our teeth.
Periodontal disease is a function of not taking care of our teeth that results in an infection.
Infections result in chronic inflammation found to be associated with physical and cognitive decline.
Tooth loss is a risk factor for poor nutritional status. Persons with poor nutritional status tend to have physical and cognitive decline and a decline in higher level functional capacity.

Persons who have their teeth cleaned regularly have less occurrence of cavities, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. Research confirms that periodontal disease is a significant risk factor for dementia. Persons with severe periodontal disease have a high risk of dementia in comparison to persons who regularly have their teeth cleaned and who complete daily oral hygiene, brushing and flossing.

Want to be healthier? Take better care of your teeth. Schedule a dental cleaning and check-up today.

1 Lee, Y.L. et al. Periodontal Disease Associate with Higher risk of Dementia: Population Based Cohort Study in Taiwan. J Am Geriatr Soc 65:1975-1980, 2017 DOI: 10.111/jgs.14944

2 Yukihiro S, et. al. Tooth Loss and Decline in Functional Capacity: A prospective Cohort Study from the Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study. J Am Geriatr Soc 64:2336-2342, 2016. DOI: 10.1111/jgs.14324

©2017 Pamela D. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

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