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The Root of the Problem: Tooth Decay Linked to Dementia



Bright, shiny teeth are not the only advantage to having good oral hygiene. Research conducted by Taiwan’s National Yang-Ming Chiao Tung University has uncovered a connection between poor oral hygiene and cognitive decline (dementia). Professor Chia-Shu Lin states that the evidence in both animal and human studies showed an association between periodontitis and dementia.


Periodontitis, or gum disease, is characterized by chronic inflammation in the oral cavity. Its close proximity to the brain suggests that this inflammation can have an adverse effect on brain function in the form of a shrinking hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory. 


In addition to the inflammation, the microbial of gum disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis, is commonly found in the brains of individuals who have died from Alzheimer’s. Professor Satoshi Yamaguchi of Tohoku University of Japan says that these microbes damage nerve tissue in the brain. 


While the bacteria associated with gum disease may cause cognitive decline, individuals who have dementia also may become negligent in maintaining their oral health. This creates a vicious cycle where one exacerbates the other which overall worsens that individual’s health. 


Dementia and Alzheimer’s are multifaceted conditions and cannot be prevented simply by brushing your teeth. However, ensuring proper oral health is still crucial as it can help promote better overall health and possibly reduce the risk of developing more serious health conditions. 


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