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Bad Dental Hygiene? It’s Time You Started Flossing

According to a recent study carried out by King’s College London and the University of Southampton, you could be at a greater risk of developing problems with your cognition if you neglect to floss. As part of the study, the researchers found a link between Periodontitis (gum disease) and increased rates of cognitive decline in people exhibiting the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
Gum disease is increasingly common among older people, and it’s likely to become more common as we become less able to take care of ourselves. Previous studies have already linked the higher levels of antibodies to the bacteria caused by gum disease and increased levels of inflammatory molecules throughout the body. This latest study aimed to discover whether periodontitis is linked to increased dementia severity which in turn, leads to faster progression of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients.
The study was observational, involving 59 people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. After undergoing cognitive assessment, the team measured the amount of inflammatory markers in the participants’ blood. The participants were also given a dental hygiene examination. 52 of the original 59 participants took part in follow-up assessments six months later.
Based on the results of these tests, the researchers found that the presence of gum disease was linked with a six-fold increase in the rate of cognitive decline over the period of the study. Evidence of gum disease was also linked with a relative increase in inflammation. These findings led the researchers to conclude that periodontitis is associated with an increase in cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s, and this is possibly due to the mechanisms which are linked to the inflammatory response in the body.
The study was limited, in that it only involved a small number of participants, therefore to be statistically significant it would be need to be repeated with a larger number of people. Furthermore, it’s not known exactly why gum disease may be linked to a decline in cognition, and it’s possible that other factors may play a part. However, as other studies have connected our body’s inflammatory response and increased rates of cognitive decline, it would be beneficial to explore whether better oral hygiene would have a positive effect on our cognitive health.

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