Oral Infections and Brain Health

National Toothache Day (February 9th) was established to create awareness around the importance of good oral hygiene. And it is the perfect time to talk about oral infections and their connection to memory loss.

You may have heard that infections such as those caused by Lyme disease and exposure to mold toxins can impact cognition, but did you know that oral infections are also a brain health risk?

Over 6 billion bacteria (700 different species!), live inside your mouth. Some promote health, others trigger disease. Every time you chew, brush, or floss, these germs can get pushed into small vessels in your gums. And blood vessels are an easy way to transport them to other parts of your body.

One known organism with the ability to cause harm in other parts of the body is Porphyromonas gingivalis, or Pg. According to the National Institute of Health, depending on where in the body it decides to go, Pg has been linked to a number of serious health issues, including heart disease, hepatitis and diabetes. Researchers now know it can travel across the blood-brain barrier and once there, release toxins that may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Prevention Is Key!
Unfortunately, as we get older, we sometimes ignore regular dental visits and cleansing rituals. Yet it is precisely this time in our lives when we need to be more vigilant. Periodontal disease becomes increasingly prevalent as we age, with symptoms not showing until it becomes severe. Approximately 23% of 65- to 74-year-olds have some type of severe periodontal disease.

It’s important we remember to give our teeth and gums the love and attention they deserve:

  • Brush and floss
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise
  • Schedule regular dental visits

Individual nutritional and lifestyle habits greatly influence who is at risk for gum disease. If you already have a health issue, you are at greater risk to develop periodontal disease. Do not wait if you are experiencing tooth or gum discomfort. Your body—and your brain—will thank you!

National Institutes of Health
Scientific American

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