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Does Brushing and Flossing Keep Dementia Away?

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estate planningA recent study found a link between gum disease and dementia and other brain diseases, The Daily Mail reported. Earlier research found that bacteria-causing gingivitis can metastasize from the mouth to the brain, according to The New York Post in a recent article entitled “There’s a disturbing new link between gum disease and dementia.”

“This is the first study showing an association between the imbalanced bacterial community found under the gum line and a cerebrospinal fluid biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease in cognitively normal older adults,” explained Dr. Angela Kamer of the NYU Dentistry School. She authored the study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring.

Previous studies established a connection between a buildup of amyloid proteins in the cerebral arteries and cognitive decline. However, researchers had yet to find exactly how that amyloid buildup causes the disease. Now, they think it could occur when gum disease prevents the body from jettisoning these interloping enzymes from the brain.

Researchers tried to prove the dental-mental wellness connection, by taking both gum swabs and cerebrospinal fluid samples from 48 healthy volunteers over 65 years old. Seniors in this age group face a high risk of both dementia and gum disease, which is a cautionary tale for notoriously dentist-averse millennials!

The researchers then examined their amounts of good and bad oral flora and found that those with more beneficial mouth microbes had lower levels of amyloids. These individuals also had a lower chance of contracting dementia.

“We found that having evidence for brain amyloid was associated with increased harmful and decreased beneficial bacteria,” said Dr Kamer. “Our results show the importance of the overall oral microbiome — not only of the role of ‘bad’ bacteria, but also ‘good’ bacteria — in modulating amyloid levels.”

The next step is performing clinical trials to see if deep-cleaning teeth can help stave off Alzheimer’s disease.

Meanwhile, you can lessen levels of “cerebral plaque” by brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day with a soft-bristle brush, according to the American Dental Association.

This isn’t the first study linking oral hygiene with overall health. Researchers have said that harmful mouth pathogens can increase the chances of everything from cancer to heart disease and even fatalities from COVID-19.

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Reference: New York Post (April 12, 2021) “There’s a disturbing new link between gum disease and dementia”

Suggested Key Terms: Elder Law Attorney, Elder Care, Caregiving, Dementia