Dental Hygiene and Dementia

Written by Active Minds on Monday the 15th of February 2016.


We all know how important it is to take care of our teeth but when we’re tired or busy our brushing or flossing routines can sometimes slip. But while you might not mind sacrificing a perfect Hollywood smile for a few more minutes in bed, recent studies have shown that the effects of poor dental hygiene might have a much more serious impact.

Researchers at the University of Central Lancashire studied brain samples both from people with dementia and people without, and found evidence of a bacteria associated with gum disease in a significant number of the samples from those with the condition.

The team believes that the bacteria, Porphyromonas gingivalis, is able to make it’s way into the bloodstream and on to the brain, where it triggers the release of chemicals thought to damage brain cells in the same way as Alzheimer’s and similar conditions. Another report originating in the United States also found parallels between bad dental hygiene and an increased risk of dementia.

That’s not to say that skipping a tooth brushing session here and there will definitely cause the condition. The studies done in this area have been comparatively small and researchers stress that the link between dental hygiene and dementia is far from proven. For example, studies do not show whether the bacteria found in the brain caused dementia or whether it was there as a result of dementia. Similarly, they have not yet researched whether the presence of the bacteria is able to cause dementia in the brain of a healthy person or whether it just serves to make an already existing condition worse.

Until more research can be carried out, the link between dementia and poor dental health isn’t a definite one. Still, maintaining good dental hygiene can only be beneficial until we know more about both. If you care for someone who is already living with dementia, make sure to encourage them to keep up a good routine of brushing and flossing, especially during the later stages of the condition where they may struggle to remember to do so.