Experts agree: Brushing your teeth and maintaining proper dental hygiene will help you avoid more than just tooth decay. According to a recent discovery by researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway, brushing your teeth regularly may help you postpone Alzheimer’s, considering the new link discovered between the memory-related disease and periodontitis, or gum disease.
"It’s no surprise that if you don't take care of your mouth and teeth, other parts of your overall health and wellness will begin to suffer," said Dr. Kelley Mingus, a dentist practicing in Bend, Oregon. "We’ve seen countless studies conducted over the years linking oral health complications to serious medical conditions."
According to this new research, gum disease may play a crucial role in determining whether an individual develops Alzheimer’s. The study was able to establish DNA-based evidence that the bacteria responsible for gum disease can move into the brain. Once there, it produces a protein that then attacks the brain’s nerve cells, causing memory loss and, eventually, Alzheimer’s disease.
Speaking on the discovery, Piotr Mydel of the Broegelmanns Research Laboratory in the department of clinical science at the University of Bergen noted that although the bacteria is not the direct cause of Alzheimer’s, its presence significantly increases the chances of the disease developing or progressing.
According to Mingus, brushing your teeth regularly, at least twice per day, and flossing correctly at least once per day will go a long way.
"This is especially important if you have identified gum disease and there is also Alzheimer’s in your family," said Mingus. "Cleaning your mouth properly, combined with regular dental visits at least twice per year, and more if you actively are suffering from gum disease, should be practiced consistently for optimal overall health and well-being."
While prevention is always the best cure, Mingus said, Mydel gave hints of the possibility of a drug likely to block the harmful enzymes produced by the gingivitis bacteria as part of a plan to keep Alzheimer’s at bay. While the drugs may enter the testing phase later this year, for now your best bet is to take proper care of your teeth and overall dental hygiene. Neglecting your dental health may come back to haunt you in the form of more serious chronic health conditions, Mingus said.