Alzheimers Research UK explain 'what is dementia?'
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Stood by his bathroom sink, Dr Michael Mosley started one of his Just One Thing podcast episodes by brushing his teeth. This essential practice does not only keep your smile clean but it could also benefit your overall health in “surprising” ways, according to the doctor. What’s worse, leaving your toothbrush untouched could be detrimental for your brain.
Whether you’ve run out of toothpaste or simply had a long day at work, you might sometimes brush off dental hygiene.
And you’re not the only one. In the UK, a quarter of all adults don’t brush their teeth twice a day, with one in three men failing to pick up their toothbrushes regularly.
Worryingly, neglecting your oral health might not just leave you with bad breath and potentially a hefty bill at your dentist’s office.
Dr Mosley has warned that poor oral hygiene could increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
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Speaking on his podcast, the doctor said: “[A] study showed that people who have severe periodontal disease – that’s inflamed gums – are also at greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Typically triggered by poor brushing and flossing, gum disease is an infection of the tissues that hold your teeth in place.
One theory of why a condition that targets your mouth could have implications for your brain comes down to your bloodstream.
Dr Mosley said: “When bacteria from your mouth leak into your blood, this activates an immune response.
“In the short term, that can be helpful, but if it continues, it can lead to chronic inflammation.”
And Dr Mosley isn’t the only expert to warn of the risks that come with poor dental hygiene.
Also speaking on the podcast, Dr Sim K. Singhrao, from the University of Central Lancashire School of Dentistry, looked at the implications first-hand.
Dr Singhrao said: “We examined Alzheimer’s disease brains and non-Alzheimer’s disease brains in the laboratory, looking for signatures of DNA from these bacteria from the gum, as well as any proteins that might be associated with them.
“And we found they were exclusively within the Alzheimer’s disease brains and not in the non-Alzheimer’s control brains.”
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Dr Mosley said the idea that “you can go” from the mouth to the brain, all the way to dementia, is “disturbing” and a “big step”.
However, research in mice clearly shows that bacteria behind gum disease can indeed enter the brain.
These studies make oral hygiene front and centre, with practices like brushing twice a day being non-negotiable.
“Clearly, the message is that oral health is unbelievably important for your body and your brain,” Dr Mosley said.
Fortunately, Dr Singhrao offered her “top tips” for keeping your teeth healthy and clean.
The expert said: “Clean your mouth twice a day at least for two minutes each time – first thing in the morning and last thing at night – and also use fluoride toothpaste.”
Her next advice is to only spit but don’t rinse after cleaning your teeth with toothpaste.
And while you might want to focus all your attention on your teeth, don’t forget about the tongue.
Dr Mosley added that doing so will not only help keep your teeth healthy, but also offer “health benefits beyond” the mouth.
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