Study shows a link may exist between poor oral hygiene and dementia

Study shows a link may exist between poor oral hygiene and dementia

If you’re like most adults, you’ve heard since you were a kid that oral hygiene is important. The message probably started with your parent and was reinforced by school teachers and dentists like Dr. Poulos at My Scottsdale Dentist.

Now as an adult you likely realize that oral hygiene is a critical component of healthy teeth and gums, fewer cavities, and overall mouth health. A study has shown, however, that there may be reasons you didn’t know about as a kid to make regular visits to your dentist. This study shows that there is a strong correlation between people with poor oral hygiene and dementia. It might be time to schedule an appointment with My Scottsdale Dentist to review your dental hygiene.

Correlation doesn’t show causation, but in this case there’s more than just a simple coincidence of effect. You might guess that someone with dementia is likely to not take very good care of their teeth. That’s true and previous studies have shown that very fact. This study, however, has located a specific gum-disease-causing bacteria in the brain of some patients. The name of the bacteria is called Porphyromonas gingivalis and of the ten people with dementia assessed in this study, four of them had this bacteria in their brain as well. Other studies have already found correlations between inflammation in periodontal disease caused by Porphyromonas gingivalis and conditions like Alzheimer’s.

According to The University of Central Lancashire, Sim Singhrao, a senior research fellow for this project, made the following statement:

“We are working on the theory that when the brain is repeatedly exposed to bacteria and/or debris from our gums, subsequent immune responses may lead to nerve cell death and possibly memory loss.”

From WebMD, St John Crean, dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry made the following comment:

“[…] it remains to be proven whether poor dental hygiene can lead to dementia in healthy people. It is also likely that these bacteria could make the existing disease condition worse.”

Ten people is not a large number, but forty percent is, so before any further conclusions can be drawn, this study will need to be repeated with a larger sample size. Given that infections in the mouth can pass to the brain, as has been seen with abscessed root canals, it’s not difficult to imagine that an insult to the gums or teeth can provide a passageway for a blood-borne pathogen to mobilize from the mouth, a few inches away to the brain.

Whether or not Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related neurological disorders are caused or worsened by bacteria, the correlation and consistent finding of periodontal bacteria in the brain makes the point, at least for us, that regular visits to the dentist do more than improve dental health they also seem to statistically improve mental health. For more information about the ways regular dental care can improve your overall health, please contact My Scottsdale Dentist and make an appointment today.