Though it may seem odd, good oral care such as regular brushing, flossing and trips to the dentist, may help aging adults keep their thinking skills intact, according to a U.S. study. Research has already established an association between poor oral health and heart disease, stroke and diabetes, as well as Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York found that gum disease could also influence brain function through several mechanisms, such as causing inflammation throughout the body, which is a risk factor for loss of mental function. The study also found that adults with the highest levels of this pathogen were two times more likely to fail three-digit reverse subtraction tests.
The study, reported in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, was based on more than 2,350 men and women who were tested for periodontitis and completed numerous thinking skills tests as part of a national survey.
Overall 5.7 percent of the adults had trouble completing certain memory tasks, 6.5 percent had impaired delayed recall, and 22.1 percent had trouble with serial subtractions.
But those with the levels of the pathogen were nearly three times more likely to struggle with the verbal memory tests, and twice as likely to fail on both delayed verbal recall and subtraction tests.
“Although our results are preliminary, they suggest that further exploration of relationships between oral health and cognition is warranted,” they concluded, “Although results presented here are preliminary and inconclusive, a growing body of evidence supports exploration of a possible association between poor oral health and incident dementia.”