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Poor Dental Health Could Affect Your Thinking

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Tooth loss and bleeding gums might be a sign of declining thinking skills among the middle-aged. New research shows that people with bleeding gums and tooth loss might actually be declining in thinking skills especially in middle aged people. The research confirms that poorer cognitive function can be traced to poor dental health.

The study was co-authored by Gary Slade, a professor in the department of dental ecology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "What we found was that for every extra tooth that a person had lost or had removed, cognitive function went down a bit," Slade said. "People who had none of their teeth had poorer cognitive function than people who did have teeth, and people with fewer teeth had poorer cognition than those with more. "The same was true when we looked at patients with severe gum disease," he said.

There are potential connections to this data. Slade and his colleagues reported their findings in the December issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association. This study was to explore potential connection between oral health and mental health. The study-documented participants between the ages of 45 and 64. 13% of the participants had lost their teeth.

More than 12% had serious bleeding issues and deep gum pockets. The documented results showed that the memory in the brain and thinking tests including word recall, as well as word fluency and skill with numbers and they were lower by every measure among those with no teeth when compared to those who had teeth. The researchers also found that having fewer teeth and serious gum bleeding were associated with worse scores on the tests, compared to those with more teeth and better gum health.

There are many contributing factors… Poor dental health usually reflects a poor diet, and 'brain foods' rich in antioxidants might then contribute to cognitive decline. "It could also be that dental disease, especially gum disease, gives rise to inflammation not only in the gums but throughout the circulatory system, ultimately affecting cognition," he said.

"Oral health isn't talked about widely and knowing the risk factor for poor health can help prevent issues," says Dr. Bruno da Costa a dentist in Beaverton.

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