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Could there be a link between bad oral hygiene and dementia? Could regular visits to the dentist and correct oral healthcare help prevent cognitive decline? Surprisingly it may be so, or at least this is what a literature review from 2013 seems to indicate.

While it may be easy to imagine how poor oral hygiene and dental health may be a consequence of cognitive impairment, arguments can also be made for the opposite. An explanation for the possible role of bad oral hygiene in the insurgence or worsening of dementia is a mechanism in which genetic and environmental factors together with inattention to oral health care cause caries that if untreated can lead to tooth loss, while a bacteria known as porphyromonas gingivalis causes peridontitis, an infectious disease which also causes tooth loss. As a consequence of tooth loss, individuals may have impaired chewing abilities, with conversely causes malnutrition and adverse diet, which is known to play at least a partial role in the development of dementia. In addition to this, peridontitis causes both local and systemic inflammation, and inflammation is widely regarded as playing very important role in the development of dementia.

The researchers concluded that yes, poor oral hygiene can be a risk factor for the later development of cognitive decline, by causing tooth loss and consequent malnutrition and systemic inflammation, which is associated with increased risk of stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. While there is no conclusive evidence, the researchers argue that there is just enough to warrant further research to explore whether there is indeed an increased risk caused by bad oral hygiene and if this could lead to potential biological markers to better and more easily diagnose cognitive decline.  It seems like not only the teeth, but also the brain might be thankful, for listening to what the dentist tells you.