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Thursday 27th October 2016

Poor oral health linked to dementia risk

17th November 2009

Taking good care of gums and teeth may help people keep their thinking skills intact in old age, according to a new US study.


Researchers found that adults over age 60 whose levels of Porphyromonas gingivalis (the bacteria that cause gum disease) were high were three times more likely to forget word sequences in a simple memory test.

The researchers also found that the same adults were unable to remember sequences of numbers.

They wrote that, although the results presented in their study are preliminary, a growing body of evidence supports possible connections between poor oral health and dementia.

Researchers have previously shown that there is a connection between taking care of your gums and teeth and getting heart disease.

Other studies have also linked oral health to diabetes and stroke.

One possible explanation for the apparent link between poor oral health and reduced thinking capacity is that the Porphyromonas gingivalis may enter the bloodstream through the gums, and cause a person's arteries to swell.

For the purposes of the study, researchers at Columbia University in the US gathered over 2,300 people from both sexes, tested them for periodontitis, and gave them thinking skills exams.

Data collection was conducted between 1991 and 1994.

The researchers found that 5.7% of adults had trouble with the verbal thinking skills tests, and 6.5% failed the simple mathematics tests.

Furthermore, study subjects whose levels of oral hygiene were lowest also had the lowest scores on the memory tests.

Robert Stewart of King's College in London said that the study added to a quietly accumulating list of studies that support a connection between poor oral hygiene and thinking ability.

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