Why going to the dentist could save you DEMENTIA: Patients with gum disease are 23% more likely to have memory impairment, study finds
- Finnish researchers have found that gum disease increases the risk of dementia
- Experts say ‘monitoring and managing’ dental health could help prevent it
- Bacteria in gum disease may trigger inflammatory response behind Alzheimer’s disease
Going to the dentist can seem like a chore.
But a study suggests it’s definitely worth getting regular check-ups, as it could help you prevent dementia.
Finnish researchers have found that people with gum disease and tooth loss are about a fifth more likely to be struck down by this cruel disease.
Experts said this suggested the “monitoring and management” of dental health could be key to preventing the disease.
Experts think visiting the dentist could help people at risk of dementia ward off the memory-robbing disease
Over the past decade, several studies have found a similar link between poor oral health and dementia.
This has led some researchers to speculate that the condition could be caused by gum disease itself. The same bacteria that cause bleeding gums can reach the brain, where doctors believe they can damage the organ.
But even with the new study, there’s no evidence that poor oral health definitely causes dementia. Finnish research is purely observational.
The link could actually happen for the opposite reason. People in the early stages may forget to brush their teeth, experts say.
Around 900,000 people are thought to be living with dementia in the UK. The figure is about seven times higher in the United States, according to charities.
The latest research, in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, pooled data from 47 previous studies that looked at the association between cognitive decline or dementia and oral health. Most articles have only looked at people over 65 and tracked their health for less than a decade.
Academics from the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio reviewed articles on periodontitis, a serious form of gum disease.
The disease can lead to bone loss in the jaw, spaces under the teeth, and damage to the connective tissue that holds the teeth in place.
It can be prevented by brushing your teeth to remove plaque before it turns into tartar, a hard, cement-like substance that can only be removed by professionals.
Dr. Sam Asher and his colleagues also reviewed articles on tooth loss as a result of severe gum disease.
They scoured every available figure, including thousands of people and their medical records, to find the link.
According to the analysis, people with gum disease and missing teeth were up to 23% more likely to suffer from cognitive decline or dementia.
But the team said the quality of the evidence was low.
Writing in the journal, the authors said, “From a clinical perspective, our findings underscore the importance of periodontal health monitoring and management in the context of dementia prevention.
“The available evidence is not yet sufficient to indicate clear ways of early identification of those at risk and the most effective measures to prevent cognitive deterioration.”
WHAT IS DEMENTIA? THE BLURRED DISEASE THAT STEALS PEOPLE SUFFERING FROM THEIR MEMORIES
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders
A GLOBAL CHALLENGE
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders (those that affect the brain) that impact memory, thinking and behavior.
There are many types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.
Some people may have a combination of dementia types.
Regardless of the type diagnosed, each person will experience dementia in their own way.
Dementia is a global concern, but is most commonly seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live to very old ages.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE AFFECTED?
The Alzheimer’s Society reports that there are over 900,000 people with dementia in the UK today. This figure is expected to reach 1.6 million by 2040.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting between 50 and 75% of those diagnosed.
In the United States, it is estimated that there are 5.5 million people with Alzheimer’s disease. A similar percentage increase is expected in the coming years.
As a person’s age increases, the risk of developing dementia also increases.
Diagnosis rates are improving, but it is believed that many people with dementia remain undiagnosed.
IS THERE A CURE?
Currently, there is no cure for dementia.
But new drugs can slow its progression and the earlier it is spotted, the more effective the treatments.
Source: Alzheimer Society
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