Brushing your teeth regularly could reduce the risk of dementia by more than one-quarter, new research finds.
People with fewer than 20 teeth are 26% more likely to develop cognitive problems that could lead to Alzheimer’s.
It is thought that chewing increases the blood-flow to the brain, thereby improving memory.
The research — a ‘systematic review’ — involved pulling together the results from 10 previous studies on the link between oral health and dementia.
One recent study followed 59 people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
It found that gum disease was linked to a six-fold increase in the rate of cognitive decline.
Dr Mark Ide, the study’s first author, said:
“Gum disease is widespread in the UK and US, and in older age groups is thought to be a major cause of tooth loss.
In the UK in 2009, around 80% of adults over 55 had evidence of gum disease, whilst 40% of adults aged over 65-74 (and 60% of those aged over 75) had less than 21 of their original 32 teeth, with half of them reporting gum disease before they lost teeth.
A number of studies have shown that having few teeth, possibly as a consequence of earlier gum disease, is associated with a greater risk of developing dementia.
We also believe, based on various research findings, that the presence of teeth with active gum disease results in higher body-wide levels of the sorts of inflammatory molecules which have also been associated with an elevated risk of other outcomes such as cognitive decline or cardiovascular disease.
Research has suggested that effective gum treatment can reduce the levels of these molecules closer to that seen in a healthy state.
Previous studies have also shown that patients with Alzheimer’s Disease have poorer dental health than others of similar age and that the more severe the dementia the worse the dental health, most likely reflecting greater difficulties with taking care of oneself as dementia becomes more severe.”
Professor Clive Holmes, one of the co-authors of the study, said:
“These are very interesting results which build on previous work we have done that shows that chronic inflammatory conditions have a detrimental effect on disease progression in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Our study was small and lasted for six months so further trials need to be carried out to develop these results.
However, if there is a direct relationship between periodontitis and cognitive decline, as this current study suggests, then treatment of gum disease might be a possible treatment option for Alzheimer’s.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do