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Oral Hygiene Habits May Potentially Deteriorate Cognitive Functioning

By: April Carson

Research has demonstrated that disregarding proper oral health and poor brushing practices, such as neglecting to remove plaque, can raise the risk of having a stroke due to gum disease and missing teeth.

The American Stroke Association has established that stroke is the fifth major cause of death and a leading source of disability in America. What's more, research suggests there appears to be a relationship between gum disease, cardiovascular concerns like high blood pressure, and other oral health issues.

Now, some recent studies have discovered a possible connection between oral hygiene and cognitive functioning. Poor brushing habits may lead to long-term poor cognitive performance in middle age and beyond.

Cyprien Rivier, M.D., M.S., a postdoctoral fellow in neurology at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut commented that until recently it had been unclear if inadequate oral hygiene could affect brain functioning; however, with innovative neuroimaging tools such as MRI scans, this is now better understood.

The study conducted by Rivier investigated the connection between self-reported oral hygiene habits, such as brushing and flossing frequency, along with cognitive performance in middle-aged adults.

Oral health shouldn't be neglected, as it is often overlooked and can easily be improved with a small amount of effort and cost. We all have the opportunity to enhance our teeth's condition quickly, making oral care an uncomplicated endeavor that should top everyone's list of priorities.

It is thought that an increase in inflammation within the body due to poor oral health could be responsible for some of the cognitive decline seen with age.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle not only reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease but also impacts our brain health which can affect how well we remember things, think clearly, or even function in life. According to reports from the American Stroke Association, an arm of the American Heart Association, approximately three out of every five people living in America will develop some form of brain condition over their lifetime. Regular oral hygiene habits may potentially reduce the risk of developing cognitive deterioration associated with age.

In a seven-year study of 40,000 adults (46% male with an average age of 57) without prior history or knowledge of stroke who participated in the U.K. Biobank, researchers sought to discover any possible connection between oral health and brain health by analyzing 105 genetic variants known for causing cavities, dentures, and missing teeth when aged. After assessing the risk factors from these mutations related to poor oral hygiene against their brain health results; compelling evidence was found that suggested a link between them both.

The researchers used MRI scans to detect signs of cognitive decline in the participants, including white matter hyperintensities and microstructural damage. White matter hyperintensities are accumulations of harm that can influence memory, stability, and mobility; while microstructural damage is an indication of how much a brain scan differs from what would be expected for a healthy adult at the same age.

The MRI scans revealed that those participants with poor oral hygiene habits had a higher likelihood of exhibiting both white matter hyperintensities and microstructural damage than those without.

According to Rivier, failure to properly maintain our oral hygiene might have a deleterious effect on our brain health. While this current study is only preliminary and more evidence needs to be gathered through clinical trials for us to confirm that taking care of our oral condition can translate into neurological benefits, it would certainly behoove us all they pay attention and take extra steps when ensuring good dental habits.

Our research was restricted because most of UK Biobank's participants are of European ancestry (94% white vs. 6% mixed, Black British, Asian British, and others). To further understand this subject matter more extensively, additional studies should involve individuals from a variety of races and ethnicities.

It's essential to remember that although findings suggest that good oral hygiene habits can reduce the risk of developing cognitive issues, there is still more to be studied. Many factors are at play when it comes to a person’s overall brain health, such as lifestyle choices and diet.

According to Broderick, environmental factors like smoking and health conditions like diabetes pose much larger risks for bad oral hygiene than any genetic marker—except in some rare cases where genetics are associated with poor dental health such as deficient or nonexistent enamel.

Although it is sensible to practice proper dental hygiene, we cannot confirm if the lack of attention to oral health leads directly to brain health issues. Research suggests that individuals with lower-than-normal cognitive abilities may not be as invested in their dental care as those without any mental issues.

Furthermore, genetic profiles associated with higher risks of dental health issues may correspond to particular genetic risk factors that are linked to numerous chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and infections. It is important to note that Broderick was not involved in this research project.

This discovery is an important reminder that although oral health is often overlooked, it has implications for overall health. Regular visits to the dentist are key to maintaining good oral hygiene habits, and thus, may be associated with better cognitive function.

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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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