Most of us are aware that poor dental hygiene can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath – but not brushing your teeth could also have consequences for more serious illnesses.
In 2010, researchers from New York University (NYU) concluded that there is a link between gum inflammation and Alzheimer’s disease, after reviewing 20 years of data on the association.
However, the number of participants in the NYU study was fairly small. The researchers analyzed data from 152 subjects enrolled in the Glostrop Aging Study – a study looking at psychological, medical and oral health in Danish men and women. The study spanned a 20-year period and ended in 1984, when the subjects were all over the age of 70.
Comparing cognitive function at ages 50 and 70, the NYU team found that gum disease at the age of 70 was strongly associated with low scores for cognitive function.
Study participants were nine times more likely to have a score in the lower range of the cognitive test – the “digit symbol test” (DST) – if they had inflammation of the gums. The American Dental Hygienists’ Association recommend that we should brush for 2 minutes, twice daily.
Although this study took into account potentially confounding factors like obesity, cigarette smoking and tooth loss unrelated to gum inflammation, there was still a strong association between low DST score and gum inflammation.
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