Dementia warning: Toothbrush habit is linked to increased risk of disease, says new study

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Researchers from the National Yang-Ming Chiao Tung University in Taiwan used data to study the association and inform evidence-based clinical advice in the future.

Chia-Shu Lin, lead author of the study and a professor in dentistry, said to Newsweek: “Most systematic reviews consistently concluded on the role of oral microbiome (the ‘ecosystem’ of the micro-organisms) in dementia.

“The evidence is concluded both from animal and human studies. The association between periodontitis (one of the major gum diseases in adults) and dementia was also consistently reported by previous reviews.”

Gum disease – a serious gum infection marked by inflammation in the oral cavity – is in close proximity to the brain, leading scientists to believe the inflammation may have negative effects on the brain.

Previous studies have also found that gum disease is associated with shrinkage in the brain’s hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory.

In addition, Porphyromonas gingivalis – bacteria causing gum disease – has been found in the brains of people who have died from Alzheimer’s. Researchers said those microbes could invade the brain and damage nerve tissue.

Lin added that oral health declines further after being diagnosed with dementia.

Lin said: “With dementia, patients deteriorate in self-caring ability.”

Lin continued: “For example, patients with Alzheimer’s disease would feel difficulty in brushing their teeth, which further exacerbates oral health and cognitive function – such a deterioration in self-caring behavior may induce a ‘vicious cycle’ that exacerbates one’s already poor health in general.

“Most studies included in these reviews are observational research, which only depicts the statistical correlation between oral health and cognition, but did not clarify the cause-effect relationship between the factors.”

Lin added that while oral health is significantly linked to risk of dementia, it does not mean that you can prevent the disease simply by brushing your teeth.

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