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Brain Health | May 30, 2024 | 2 min read

Brain Power Begins in Your Mouth: The Oral Health-Neurological Connection

Essential Takeaways

  • Taking care of your mouth goes beyond a pretty smile - it may help protect your brain too! Studies suggest a link between gum disease and dementia, with poor oral health potentially increasing the risk of cognitive decline. Brush, floss, and see your dentist regularly to prioritize both oral and brain health.

Long-standing and emerging research shows a correlation between dementia and gum disease. While neurologists and dentists continue to work to expose the relationship between the two conditions, the evidence suggests the bacteria that causes gum disease are also associated with the development of multiple dementias, particularly Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

In this article, we explore the mouth-brain connection and how the simplest oral health routines can have lasting, life-altering impacts on your neurological health and potentially help prevent neurodegeneration.

Mouth-brain connection study results

The connections between oral health and cognitive function have been studied around the world. A few of the most noteworthy findings include:

  • Poor oral health is shown to be associated with a 24% increase in white matter hyperintensities — a marker associated with cognitive decline.
  • One study found poor oral health led to a 43% change in microstructural damage scores — a potential predecessor for memory decline and possible biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • A study exposed a correlation between tooth loss and cognitive decline.
  • Poor oral health is associated with higher incidences of silent cerebrovascular disease, a group of conditions that impact blood flow to the brain and the blood vessels in the brain (stenosis, thrombosis, hemorrhage, and embolism).

Let’s dig into the complex linkage between gum disease and brain health.

Oral bacteria and the brain

Gum disease leads to an excess of bacteria in the mouth; when bacteria are not removed with brushing and flossing, they build up and can enter the bloodstream through tears in the gums and along the gumline. This is particularly problematic when it comes to Porphyromonas gingivalis, the bacteria that causes gingivitis. Porphyromonas gingivalis has been found in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s, suggesting a correlation between gum disease and cognitive decline.

The potential of brain plaque formation

Beta-amyloid is a central hallmark of Alzheimer’s; in Alzheimer’s disease patients, beta amyloid accumulates and forms into insoluble neurotoxic amyloid plaque and disrupts cell function. It turns out gum disease is associated with a buildup of beta-amyloid; individuals with an imbalance of harmful oral bacteria are more likely to have this biomarker in their cerebrospinal fluid. The relationship between oral bacteria and beta-amyloid is still being uncovered, but studies suggest a correlation.

Oral health is brain health

While researchers continue exploring the mouth-brain connection, one thing is clear: How you care for your mouth can have long-lasting, life-changing implications on your brain — and the rest of your body. Your morning and evening oral care rituals could support healthier brain function now and as you age. The next time you floss, remember that you’re not just taking care of your mouth, but your brain as well.

Turn habits into rituals

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Meet the Author

Kenny Brown

We founded Feno to revolutionize dental care, understanding the vital connection between oral and overall health. Our tech driven products offer more than superb cleaning—they give you routine & insightful health monitoring to help improve your overall health.

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