If you are one of those people who holds off on dental care until you need an emergency dentist, you may want to read this piece thoroughly and carefully. According to a US publication, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, your state of oral health now is related to your cognitive well-being later in life.
While researchers caution that more research is needed to fully validate their conclusions, we feel it is more than worthwhile to make this information available to our readers and patients. The link between poor oral health and a plethora of medical problems is not really new. The world-renowned Mayo Clinic has found links between poor oral health and heart disease. For those who have HIV/AIDS or diabetes, oral health problems are even worse because of the body’s compromised ability to fight infection.
As the baby-boomer generation begins to segue into old age, more and more researchers are studying the links between oral health and cognition. Most researchers are now leaning towards a common inflammatory pathway as being the factor that allows poor oral health to affect cognition.
In the US, cognitive decline affects 36% of people aged over 70 years. 5.4 million people in the US are living with Alzheimer’s or a similar form of dementia. They expect their number to double by 2050. In Australia, 353,800 are afflicted with dementia with the number expected to rise to 400,000 in the next five years. By 2050, the number is expected to rise to 900,000, nearly triple the current number.
The Duke University Study
At prestigious Duke University in the US, Dr Bei Wu decided to use old medical records to see if there was, indeed, a link between oral health and dementia. Their team analysed numerous studies that had been conducted from 2003-2013. They used data collected at one specific point in time, called cross-sectional data, and data collected over a period of time, called longitudinal data.
Many of the studies strongly suggest links between dementia and a number of factors, including number of cavities, number of teeth and periodontal conditions such as gingivitis. Some studies didn’t show any links, while the results were conflicting in the case of number of teeth and number of cavities.
There is stronger evidence for a link between conditions such as gingivitis and cognitive decline or dementia.
Dr Wu concluded that people with dementia have more oral problems than those without but also acknowledges that both are more common as we age. He also acknowledges that poor nutrition and systemic dysfunctions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes can contribute to cognitive decline and dementia.
Ultimately Dr Wu suggests further studies with larger sample sizes.
What it Means to You at Any Age
We know that inflammation and bacteria are a factor in both gum disease and cognitive decline. We also know that diet plays a central role in whether or not someone develops adult diabetes. We can’t even pretend to have all of the answers but we can reasonably suggest some steps you can take to give yourself the best odds at staying healthy in mind and body as you age.
Regular Trips to the Dentist
It is crucial to keep your mouth healthy. This involves going to the dentist on a regular basis and maintaining a solid program of oral hygiene. This includes brushing, flossing and a teeth cleaning from the dentist at least once a year.
Another thing you can do: pay close attention to the information we provide about nutrition and oral health. A lot of the foods and beverages that can compromise oral health can also cause diabetes. This includes sugary snacks and sugary drinks. Excess sugar consumption causes excess inflammation, which is a common factor of gum disease, cardiovascular disease and dementia.
If you start taking care of your dental health as soon as possible, it may help keep you healthy in more ways than you know. To learn more or to get started on a program of regular visits to the dentist and great dental hygiene, call Joondalup City Dental today: (08) 9404 9500 or click here to book an appointment.
Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, we encourage you to discuss these matters with an appropriately qualified health practitioner.