LoveYourBrain Tip: Brush Your Teeth!

BRUSH YOUR TEETH!

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BRAIN HEALTH | 8.24.2015 | BY DAYA ALEXANDER GRANT, Ph.D., M.S.

loveyourbrain

Yes, today’s LYB tip is sponsored by your dentist. This topic may not be as fun as some of the others, but it is important and something most people don’t associate with brain health. Before you roll your eyes and stop reading, consider this (slightly unpleasant) thought: can bacteria in your gums negatively affect more than just your gums? The answer is “perhaps”. Scientists have been testing the hypothesis that gum-related bacteria can actually migrate to the brain, causing inflammation, which can have a negative effect on brain health.

  • One 2012 study of over 5000 older people found that women who did not brush their teeth daily were up to 65% more likely to also have dementia than those who brushed three times a day. The effect was less in men.
  • Other studies have simply proven that bacteria can travel from the gums to the brain, which is a pretty fascinating finding

Of course, the studies that have been conducted are based on correlation, and not causation, so we have to be careful not to conclude that brushing our teeth will absolutely prevent dementia because 1) there are several factors that likely contribute to developing dementia, and 2) poor gum health can be caused by malnutrition, instead of poor dental hygiene. However, even if the science is still a work in progress, there is no harm in taking good care of our teeth and gums!   

So now, when your dentist reminds you to “Brush, floss, and rinse”, you can thank him or her for helping your teeth, and potentially your brain, stay healthy.