A new study suggests people who brush their teeth and gums regularly may have a lower risk of developing dementia in later life.
Reuters reports University of California researchers tracked nearly 5,500 elderly people over an 18-year period, and discovered those who say they brush their teeth less than once a day were 65% more likely to develop dementia than those who brush every day.
Lead researcher Annlia Paganini-Hill tells Reuters, "Not only does the state of your mind predict what kind of oral health habits you practice, it may be that your oral health habits influence whether or not you get dementia."
Inflammation that can result from gum-disease related bacteria is blamed for a number of health problems including heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Now Paganini-Hill says some studies have shown that people with Alzheimer's Disease, have more gum disease-related bacteria in their brains.
Reuters says the study followed residents of a California seniors community with an average age of 81. None of them had dementia when the study started. 18 years later the researchers used interviews, medical records and in some cases death certificates to discover that 1,145 people out of the original 5,468, had gone on to develop dementia.
78 of the women admitted in 1992 that they brushed their teeth less than once a day. 18 years later, 21 of them had dementia, that's about one out of every 3.7 women. Out of the women who brushed at least once a day, one out of every 4.5 developed dementia. A 65% increase in risk.
The result wasn't as obvious among the men. The study found that only one in six people who admitted not brushing regularly developed the disease, or a 22% increase in risk, and the researchers say that is so small that it could have just been coincidence.
However, men who still had all or most of their teeth had half the risk to develop dementia than those who wore dentures. But that same effect was not seen in women.
But Dr. Amber Watts, who studies dementia at the University of Kansas warns that the study has limitations. The Daily Mail quotes Watts saying, "I would be reluctant to draw the conclusion that brushing your teeth would definitely prevent you from getting Alzheimer's disease." She does say, it appears that the study is a big step in linking how behavior like brushing your teeth, may be linked to dementia.
The National Post reports Pagnini-Hill saying, “First, practice good oral health habits to prevent tooth loss and oral diseases. And second, if you do lose your teeth, wear dentures.”