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Brush Teeth Regularly to Keep Away Dementia

Update Date: Aug 22, 2012 08:17 AM EDT

Regular brushing of teeth may lower the risk of developing dementia later in life, claims a new study.

For the study, researchers observed 5,500 elderly people for a period of 18 years and found that people who brushed less than once a day, there was 65 per cent likelihood developing dementia than those who brushed every day.

"Not only does the state of your mind predict what kind of oral health habits you practice, it may be that your oral health habits influence whether or not you get dementia," said Annlia Paganini-Hill, who led the study at the University of California.

It seems that inflammation rising from gum disease-related bacteria is thought to be behind a host of conditions including heart disease, stroke and diabetes, reports thestar.com.

Paganini-Hill notes that previous studies have shown that people with Alzheimer's disease are found to have more gum disease-related bacteria in their brains than those who did not have Alzheimer's. Paganini-Hill and her team wanted to see weather oral condition in long-term could predict better cognitive function in later life.

The researchers observed 5,468 participants of the study from 1992 to 2010. The participants were apparently well-educated and relatively affluent and in the beginning of the study, they ranged in age from 52 to 105. 

None of the participants had dementia in the beginning and they were quizzed about their dental health habits, the condition of their teeth and if they wore dentures.

Eighteen years later, the researchers followed-up with the participants asking questions and checking medical records and in some cases death certificates and found that 1,145 of the original group had been diagnosed with dementia.

It was found that from among 78 women who admitted not brushing their teeth daily in 1992, by 2010 21 had dementia. 

When compared to those who brushed regularly, it was found that 65 percent those who did not were likely to suffer from the disorder.

In case of men, however, the effect was apparently less pronounced, with only 22 percent more risk for those who didn't brush on a regular basis. Researchers say that statistically, the effect is so small that it could have been a matter of chance.

The study does not establish a cause and effect relationship between bad oral health and dementia, but only links the two conditions.

This report "is really the first to look at the effect of actions like brushing and flossing your teeth," Dr. Amber Watts, who studies the causes of dementia at the University of Kansas and was not involved in the research, was quoted as saying by thestar.com.

"I would be reluctant to draw the conclusion that brushing your teeth would definitely prevent you from getting Alzheimer's disease," Watts said.

However, despite the limitations, the study is an important milestone in understanding the link between behavior and dementia.

"It's nice if this relationship holds true as there's something people can do (to reduce their chances of developing dementia)," said Paganini-Hill. "First, practice good oral health habits to prevent tooth loss and oral diseases. And second, if you do lose your teeth, wear dentures."

The new findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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