3 Ways Your Dentist Can Prevent Dementia

Sep 23, 2015, by Dr. Becky Coats

One of the frightening things about getting older is losing our mind to conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. The good news is that taking the proper steps now can help reduce your risk of dementia, and your dentist can help. Here’s how.

Reduce the chances of dementia

Keeping Your Teeth Reduces Dementia Risk

This is going to sound a little crazy, we know, but it turns out that being able to chew helps keep your brain sharp. There have been a number of studies that have linked the ability to chew with reduced dementia risk, though little work has been done to illuminate the reason for the connection.

There are two main theories. One is that chewing promotes mental health by encouraging blood flow to the brain. Supporters of this theory point to the fact that test-takers who chewed gum during a test did better than those who didn’t chew gum. The other theory is that both dementia and tooth loss have a common cause: gum disease.

Gum Disease Can Lead to Alzheimer’s Disease

There have been literally hundreds of studies linking gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease. In this case, we do have a sense of the mechanism that links the two. Oral bacteria can cause inflammation not just in the mouth, but throughout the body, including the brain. Inflammation of the brain is an early symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.

The only difficulty has been the question: how do bacteria get to the brain. Bacteria regularly find their way into our blood, but our blood doesn’t get directly to the brain. A recent study compiled different ways that bacteria could reach our brain, including breaking down the blood-brain barrier or hitching a ride on the trigeminal nerve or other structures that go directly to the brain.

Sleep Apnea Leads to Dementia

It’s also important to remember that your dentist can treat sleep apnea. Sleep apnea has been significantly linked with early onset dementia, and we’re beginning to understand why. One of the vital functions of sleep is to remove toxic byproducts that build up in the brain. Sleep apnea interrupts this process, which allows the byproducts to build up, damaging the brain and leading to early-onset dementia.

Long-Term Prevention

You may think you’re too young to think about dementia, but none of these causes work overnight. Instead, they build up over the years, causing brain damage and result in the serious consequence of dementia. If you want to postpone losing your mind for as long as possible, the time to start seeing your dentist is now.

If you’re looking for a Grapevine dentist who is aware of the connection between your oral health and mental health, please call  for an appointment at Grapevine Dental Care today.