Taking care of your teeth has a big impact on your health as you age. Researchers have suspected this for a long time, but a new study points to just how this link works, and exactly which aspects of health are likely to be impacted.
Some past studies have even linked poor dental hygiene to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. This study, building upon that data, wanted to see whether or not this was causal in nature, or coincidental. By looking at the brains of both individuals with and without dementia, the research team found that four out of ten brains with Alzheimer’s contained oral bacteria.
It’s not enough to prove causation, but it’s enough to confirm that the suspicions have merit.
The team from the University of Florida Dental College built upon previous knowledge, expanded on what was known, created opportunities for future researchers to build off of, and provided more guidance for individuals trying to live a healthier lifestyle.
Additionally, bacteria living in the gums can enter the body’s blood stream, impacting heart health. Previous studies have also pointed to this, even though this particular study didn’t spend a lot of time looking at the heart. Regardless, there’s a lot of evidence that indicates just how important dental health is. Checkups at the dentist are incredibly important to keep, starting from a young age and continuing throughout adulthood. Brushing and flossing every day are also key to ongoing dental health. Speak more with your dentist for other steps that you can take to help yourself and your family stay healthy in this area.
Will getting a loved one to the dentist fix everything? No. Dental hygiene is just one piece in a very large puzzle. But there are things that can be done right now to help a loved one. First, ensure that dental appointments are being made and kept. For many, this has probably not been an issue. But then again, some people go years without seeing a dentist. Sometimes, other priorities get in the way and these simple preventative appointments get forgotten and delayed. It’s really easy for years to pass without appointments being attended. Figure out where your family stands here and then schedule appointments as needed.
Some doctors may require HIPAA forms and consents to be filed if you are going to be scheduling appointments for a loved one. This is normal, and something that is covered under power of attorney, if that’s something that you are considering. However, POA isn’t a necessary step for a lot of families. Each office will have their own consent forms needed, so if you meet resistance, this can be a good question to ask.
Next, look at what other preventative care appointments are needed beyond dental. As I mentioned before, this is just one piece of a puzzle. Your loved one’s health is a vast topic, and other aspects of health might have been neglected, too. Working with your family to keep them healthy can feel overwhelming, but there’s a lot of benefit to doing it. The dividends in health that are gained will make it all worthwhile.