Brush Your Teeth To Save Your Brain?

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Interested in decreasing the chances of getting Alzheimer's disease? According to some research, you might want to start by brushing your teeth.

A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found an interesting connection between teeth brushing and dementia, particularly in women. This study was conducted over 18 years and involved more than 5000 participants with an average age of 81.

The researchers found that women who brushed their teeth three times a day were 22-65% less likely to develop dementia over the 18 years than those who brushed their teeth less than once a day.

The number of teeth people had was also found to be important. Men who kept more of their own teeth were less likely to develop dementia, and those who did lose their teeth but wore dentures were also less likely to develop dementia.

Going to the dentist also demonstrated a protective benefit. Men who did not go to the dentist in the last year were 89% more likely to develop dementia than men who went two or more times in the last year. Interestingly, flossing or using mouthwash showed no effect on dementia rates.

The study did take into account lifestyle factors such as exercise, body mass index and smoking. This is important because we can't then assume that the reduced risk of dementia was simply caused by being conscientious about other health factors.

It's important to note that this study didn't prove causation- it showed a strong association between teeth brushing and reduced dementia risk. Why might there be a connection here? One possible theory points to research that showed that better oral health was associated with a decreased risk for stroke, one of the leading causes of vascular dementia.

Another hypothesis could be that early dementia (not yet diagnosed) causes reduced teeth brushing.

A second study also found a correlation between risk of dementia and dental health. 1053 participants were administered cognitive assessments to evaluate their abilities. Thy also underwent a dental exam to determine their dental health. Researchers determined that poor dental health was correlated with a decline in cognitive functioning.

Or Not?

Of course, while some research supports a connection between dental health and dementia risk, not everyone agrees. Research published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society outlined a study involving 2075 participants whose dental health (specifically defined here as the presence or absence of their own teeth) was compared to the presence or absence of dementia. Researchers found that there was no difference in the risk of dementia for people whether they still had their own teeth or whether they had partial or full dentures.

Dental Care Benefits

Clearly, more research needs to be conducted in this area, but it does appear to be a possible correlation.

Poor dental health has already been tied to several other health concerns, including heart disease and stroke. This possible connection between dental health and dementia is just another good reason to brush our teeth and visit our friendly dentist. Everyone around us will be thankful, and just maybe we're helping reduce our risk for developing dementia.


Journal of the American Geriatric Society. 2014 May;62(5):979-81. Dental status is unrelated to risk of dementia: a 20-year prospective study.

Journal of the American Geriatric Society. Volume 61, Issue 2, pages 177–184, February 2013. Adverse Oral Health and Cognitive Decline: The Health, Aging and Body Composition Study.

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Volume 60, Issue 8, pages 1556–1563, August 2012.

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