Brushing your teeth and maintaining great oral health just got even more important. A new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that bacteria that cause gum disease are likely linked to the development of dementia later on in life.

Gum disease manifests when bacteria cause an infection along the lining of the gums. Symptoms can include, but are not limited to, bleeding gums, loose teeth with no explainable cause and, in serious cases, loss of teeth. If not treated, serious health complications can occur from the bacteria traveling from the mouth through the bloodstream.

To conduct the research, a team used a database of information from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics to find possible links between gum disease and the development of dementia diagnoses later on in life. Around 6,000 study subjects were assessed to determine the connection, using both the National Death Index and Medicare data to correlate the findings. Assessments were done as much as 26 years out. To compile the initial data, the CDC conducted dental exams and blood tests to gauge markers of gum disease and antibodies for bacteria. The analysis found that participants who had initial signs of gum disease were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, and those aged 65 and older were at an increased risk of diagnosis and/or death.

More follow up research needs to be conducted to fully understand the link between gum health and memory impairment. However, gum health has long since been connected to full-body health. To prevent gum disease from occurring, it is important to maintain a proper oral health care routine and see a dentist regularly.

In the meantime, please join me and the dementia awareness community in becoming dementia aware. Let’s join together to end the stigma of memory impairment and elevate the level of care we provide for those who need it most.

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