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Common Bathroom Habits Slash Risk of Dementia by 20%

October 11, 2022 3 min read

Common Bathroom Habits Slash Risk of Dementia by 20%

Flossing regularly alongside brushing can help ward off your chances of developing dementia, according to a new study.

Finnish researchers have discovered that people suffering with gum disease and tooth loss were roughly a fifth more likely to be struck down with the cruel condition.

There are currently 944,000 people with dementia in the UK, more than ever before, and this number is projected to increase, says Alzheimer's Research UK.

The debilitating disease causes a gradual loss of memory and other cognitive functions such as confusion and losing sense of humour.

The oral experts from the University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio suggested that regular brushing and flossing, particularly in middle age, could be effective at helping prevent the disease.

Poor oral hygiene is already thought to raise the risk of a number of health problems, from cancer to heart disease. 

Previous studies have also found a link between between gum disease and Alzheimer’s.

While some researchers have said that the bacteria known to cause gum disease - F. nucleatum - might be involved in causing Alzheimer’s.

But even in this new study, there is no hard proof that poor oral health definitely causes dementia. 

The link could actually be happening because people who have dementia forget to brush their teeth in the early stages of the disease, researchers said.

The latest research, in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, pooled data from 47 other studies that looked into the association between cognitive decline or dementia and oral health.

The academics investigated the impact of gum disease -- sometimes known as periodontitis -- on the brain.

The main signs of dementia you need to know

Signs of dementia happen when once-healthy neurons in the brain stop working and die. While everyone loses some neurons as they age, people with dementia experience far greater loss

  • Memory: Regularly forgetting recent events, names and faces.
  • Repetition: Becoming increasingly repetitive.
  • Misplacing things: Regularly misplacing items or putting them in odd places.
  • Confusion: Not sure of the date or time of day.
  • Disorientation: People might be unsure of their whereabouts or get lost, particularly in unfamiliar places.
  • Language: Problems finding the right words.
  • Mood and behaviour: Some people become low in mood, anxious or irritable

Periodontitis happens when plaque builds up in between the teeth and leaves gums red, swollen and sore.

It can be prevented by brushing and regularly flossing in between your teeth, which is where most of the plaque builds up.

The researchers discovered that having gum disease increases your chances of dementia by 21 per cent.

They also looked at the impact of tooth loss, which is often caused by gum disease. Losing teeth can increase your chances of dementia by 13 per cent, the study showed.

However, lead author Dr Sam Asher from the University of Eastern Finland said the quality of evidence which suggests oral health is responsible for dementia "is low".

Despite this, he still emphasised the importance of "monitoring and management of oral health in the context of dementia prevention".

Take care of oral health

Having good oral hygiene will generally protect you from gum disease, but unfortunately, the older you get, the more susceptible you are.

Daily oral hygiene and plaque control can prevent gum disease, but you should also visit the dentist every six months.

To effectively look after your oral health:

  • Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day – spit after brushing, do not rinse
  • Clean in between your teeth every day using floss or interdental brushes
  • Replace your toothbrush every one to three months
  • See a dentist and dental hygienist for regular check-ups, especially if you're pregnant or have type 2 diabetes
  • Stop smoking

The risk of dementia can accumulate over a lifetime and is partly driven by genetics which are not possible to change.

Generally, you can slash dementia odds by eating a healthy diet, exercising, not smoking and limiting alcohol.

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