Oral Health and Dementia

Oral Health and Dementia

How Regular Dental Visits Can Help Reduce Your Risk of Memory Diseases

Over the last decade, new research has surfaced that has indicated something that dentists have long been saying: there is a link between how well you take care of your teeth and gums and your overall health. But while this information has been known for some time, more recent findings point to the reduction in the risk of memory conditions, such as Dementia, in particular. Dr. Parley Hubler, Jr. of Lucas Family Dentistry agrees that, “there’s a real benefit to taking care of your teeth for the long-term betterment of your health. We want patients to know that we take great care in helping to reduce the onset of gum disease and are quick to treat it whenever it appears to help keep patients’ overall health intact.”

Several studies have pointed to the connection between lingering bacteria in the mouth and gums that can travel through the bloodstream and into the brain. “There have been findings that suggest as many as 4 in 10 patients with diagnosed Dementia also have a gum bacteria called Porphyromonas gingivalis. It’s found in the brain at the time of testing.” There is still so much that is unknown about the cause of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia, but one thing is for sure, it’s just one more thing to educate patients about to help them stay as healthy as possible.

Research Suggest Good Oral Health Could Improve Overall Health

Particular bacteria, like that found in the brain samples where Dementia was also present may be linked to other issues such as immune responses and nerve cell death. “This is extreme, but it drives home the point of how important it is for patients to take care of their teeth. It’s something that continues to be taken for granted and as dental professionals, we offer a real chance of contributing to the overall improvement and sustainability of a patient’s general health,” says Dr. Hubler.

Many people think that health is driven by eating right and exercising, getting enough sleep and avoiding stressful situations, but there is much to be said about increasing visits to the dental office, regular cleanings, and of course, brushing and flossing. Dr. Hubler goes on to say,  “patients may feel slightly embarrassed when they are asked about their brushing habits, but we don’t ask them to shame them. We ask them so we can get an accurate representation of their oral health.” Failing memory does not have to be a part of old-age, yet younger and younger patients are experiencing issues with memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. If brushing your teeth regularly is a simple thing that can reduce the risk of developing these conditions, it only makes sense to implement that simple step.

However, despite repeated conversations and discussions about how to care for our teeth and bodies, people have all kinds of reasons for not taking their health and wellness seriously. “It’s just human nature to think these things won’t happen to us. When you are talking about something like Dementia, most people think that it’s something they need to worry about when they are older, but now is the time to take action to prevent it from occurring in the first place.” Allen dentist, Dr. Hubler, Jr. takes the time to explain and remind his patients, especially adult patients, that there’s only one set of teeth that need to be taken care of and it shouldn’t take a backseat in the overall approach to health.

Dental Professionals Can Be a Part of Your Health Management Team

Frequent visits to the dentist don’t just help to keep your teeth clean. These visits provide important information to dental professionals about your overall health and they provide an opportunity for full examinations, x-rays, and assessments to determine gum health changes that may impact your health later on. “The technology we use today allows us to create digital pictures of what someone’s mouth and gums will look like years from now if problems aren’t solved, and we can use that information to help determine how to prevent and treat those issues before they become worse.”

Right now, much of the health information people have is derived from a visit to their family doctor, health specialist, or emergency room. Patients don’t think to turn to their dental professionals to gain insight into their health, but there’s a reason why expectant mothers are referred to dentists during pregnancy: “we know that issues in the gums and mouth can travel through the bloodstream and impact the baby’s health. Pregnant women are encouraged to see a dentist early on to determine the state of their oral health and to prevent issues from arising during the pregnancy,” reminds Dr. Hubler.

More Research Could Shed Light on Opportunities for Prevention and Treatment

While much of what is known about Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia befalls medical doctors and researchers, dental professionals are just starting to get in on the conversation and contribute to what could be a massively new approach to improving health and wellness. Much of the assumptions about how to prevent and manage such conditions are based in theory and more research and testing is needed to confirm the connection. “It’s really a chicken and egg situation,” comments Dr. Hubler, “it’s not yet known if the bacteria causes or is linked to Dementia or Dementia is causing the bacterial build up.” Only time will tell as research continues.

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