Keeping your teeth brushed and flossed can cut down on gum disease, drastically reducing risk of heart attack and stroke, Dr. Erik Mendelsohn has warned for years. Now researchers at West Virginia University have found that a clean mouth may also help preserve memory.
Older people might want to know there’s more reason to keep their mouths clean—to brush and floss—than ever. They will not only be more likely to preserve their teeth, but also reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and memory loss.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $1.3 million grant over four years to further build on studies linking gum disease and mild to moderate memory loss. The team will look at health records over many years of several thousand Americans.
This could have great implications for health of our aging populations. With rates of Alzheimer’s skyrocketing, imagine the benefits of knowing that keeping the mouth free of infection could cut down on cases of dementia!
The research builds on an ongoing study of West Virginians aged 70 and older. Working with the WVU School of Medicine, School of Dentistry researchers have given oral exams and memory tests to 270 elderly people in more than a dozen West Virginia counties. They’ve discovered that about 23 percent of the group suffers from mild to moderate memory loss.
A grant has been issued for studies linking gum disease and mild to moderate memory loss.
If you have a gum infection, you’ll have an increased level of inflammatory byproducts. Researchers are looking for markers in the blood that show inflammation to see if there is a link to memory problems. The goal is for an intervention— to clean up some of the problems in the mouth and then see if the inflammatory markers go down.
Researchers don’t yet understand whether microorganisms in the mouth create health problems or whether the body’s inflammatory response is to blame. It may be a combination of both. Researchers also don’t know much about mild to moderate memory loss, even though the connection between severe dementia and gum disease is well-known.
In the future, you may see Dr. Erik Mendelsohn routinely administer memory tests to his older patients! But in the meantime, be sure to take care of any oral health problems before it is too late!
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Erik Mendelsohn, please call (609) 646-1989.
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