The key to better mental health may be stuck in your teeth. That’s right. The next time your dentist reminds you to floss for the millionth time, take their words to heart because it could be good for your brain. New research published by the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine suggests that good flossing habits may help prevent cognitive decline and dementia later in life. The researchers examined 14 different medical studies on tooth loss and cognition, and they noticed that adults with more tooth loss had an increased risk of developing cognitive impairment and dementia. Each missing tooth increased the risk of developing an impairing condition.
The Connection Between Oral and Brain Health
The question is, why? Several factors may link tooth loss and cognitive decline. One concern is the increased inflammation that gum disease can trigger in the body. Tooth loss can also impact the kind of foods that older adults eat, meaning they may not be getting all the nutrients they need for good brain health. Those with tooth loss who did not have dentures seemed to be most at risk. It may be because dentures help older adults maintain a healthy diet. The research team, as reported by CNN, also mentions that socioeconomic factors may impact the data as well. Those with limited access to good dental care tend to have poorer oral health overall.
Although the findings seem shocking, they shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Previous research has linked the bacteria associated with gum disease to an increased risk of heart disease. A new study published in Science Advances has linked the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis to the development of Alzheimer’s in some individuals. The bacteria can travel from the mouth to the brain. Once in the brain, the bacteria begin to release enzymes that destroy nerve cells. The destruction of these nerve cells eventually leads to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.
Other studies have explored the connection between gum disease and stroke. Periodontitis is a type of infection of the gums. As the oral bacteria grow and spread, they can eventually cause plaque buildup in the arteries. The plaque buildup may lead to clots and eventually a stroke.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
There seems to be little doubt that there is a strong connection between oral health and general health, whether it is the health of the brain, heart, or other parts of the body. Keeping your teeth and gums happy may be one of the best ways to keep your body happy, and flossing is a key component in that equation. Flossing helps reduce plaque buildup and helps prevent gum disease. It can reach bacteria that brushing alone can’t touch.
If you didn’t think you had a reason to floss before, you do now, and there is no better time to start. In addition to good oral hygiene practices at home, it is also important to schedule regular dental cleanings with a professional. The team at Babylon Dental Care can help you keep your smile bright and prevent tartar and plaque buildup. Do your brain a favor, and call us at (631) 983-6665 to schedule a cleaning today.