Research has shown that flossing your teeth may protect against cognitive decline
“Given the large number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia each year, and the opportunity to improve oral health throughout the lifespan, it is important to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between poor oral health and cognitive decline,” Bai Wu said. D., professor of global health at New York University’s Rory Myers College of Nursing and senior author of the study, said in a statement.
Researchers analyzed 14 studies of tooth loss and cognitive impairment conducted over a long period of time, which included a total of 34,074 adults and 4,689 cases of people with impaired cognitive function.
The results showed that adults with more tooth loss were 1.48 times more likely to develop cognitive impairment and 1.28 times more likely to develop dementia, even when controlling for other factors.
The new research also revealed that adults who had experienced tooth loss were more likely to have cognitive decline if they did not have dentures.
“We need to think about raising awareness of the importance of oral health, and we need to think about preventive treatment and dentures,” Wu told CNN.
Dentures are important because they allow patients to maintain a healthy diet, as well as provide “the confidence to smile naturally,” according to Dr. James Wilson, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, who was not involved in the study.
“The ability to eat a normal diet is critical to a person’s physical health,” Wilson said by email. “The positive self-image that dentures provide to a patient improves their mental health as well.”
Healthy mouth, healthier brain
The analysis offered several explanations for those links between poor oral health and poor brain health, including the problem of missing teeth, which can affect chewing, limiting healthy food choices and can lead to a loss of nutrients essential for brain health. The analysis also highlighted evidence that stomatitis is associated with encephalitis and cognitive impairment.
“Untreated gum disease can lead to tooth loss and may also increase the risk of other health complications,” Wilson added.
“Inflammation from periodontal disease has been linked to other disease states, including cardiovascular disease, pancreatic cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Social economy plays a role دور
The NYU-led analysis also noted that tooth loss could reflect “lifelong social and economic disadvantages, such as limited access and quality of medical and dental care, fewer years of education, and poor nutrition.”
“Income and education are very much related to oral health, probably much more so than other chronic conditions, especially because of the lack of dental insurance for many people,” Wu said.
Wu added that these oral health disparities are particularly pronounced in the United States, where the health care system is complex to navigate, and many people do not have access to dental care as part of health insurance or are required to pay out-of-pocket dental expenses.
“Gum disease can be prevented with regular brushing and flossing and regular visits to a dental hygienist,” added Wilson. “Patients should also expect to receive a comprehensive periodontal evaluation on an annual basis.”