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Reason to Smile: Natural Dental Health Strategies May Prevent Memory Loss

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: natural dentistry, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) Brushing and flossing your teeth daily does more than help prevent cavities, periodontal (gum) disease and bad breath. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, having healthy teeth and gums also lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke. And now researchers at West Virginia University have found a clean mouth may also do something else -- prevent memory loss.

"This could have great implications for the health of our aging populations. With rates of Alzheimer's skyrocketing, imagine the benefits of knowing that keeping the mouth free of infection could cut down on cases of dementia," said Richard Crout, D.M.D., Ph.D., an expert on gum disease and associate dean for research in the WVU School of Dentistry, in a statement to the media. "Older people might want to know there's more reason to keep their mouths clean -- to brush and floss -- than ever."

How could the health of your mouth have an impact on your heart and your brain health? No one knows for sure but one theory is that bacteria found in the mouth can enter the blood stream through bleeding, inflamed gums. Then these germs may end up attached to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries and contribute to stroke and heart attack causing-blood clots. The same process might damage the brain, too.

Another possibility is that the body's inflammatory response to a build up of bacteria in an unhealthy mouth is to blame. "If you have a gum infection, you'll have an increased level of inflammatory byproducts," Crout explained. "We're looking for markers in the blood that show inflammation to see if there is a link to memory problems. We'd like to go full circle and do an intervention -- to clean up some of the problems in the mouth and then see if the inflammatory markers go down."

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently awarded Dr. Crout and his colleagues a $1.3 million grant over four years to further build on the research team's ongoing study of West Virginians aged 70 and older that is investigating a link between gum disease and mild to moderate memory loss. So far, the researchers have given oral exams and memory tests to 270 elderly people in more than a dozen West Virginia counties and discovered that about 23 percent of the group suffers from mild to moderate memory loss associated with dental and gum problems. This isn't a complete surprise because, according to the media statement, a connection between severe dementia and gum disease is already well known.

Crout will share the grant with gerontologist and principal investigator Bei Wu, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of North Carolina, Brenda L. Plassman, Ph.D., of Duke University, a scientist specializing in memory research, and Jersey Liang, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Michigan.

As previously covered in Natural News, instead of relying on toothpastes loaded with potentially toxic chemicals to take care of your teeth, there are a host of natural, inexpensive ways to keep your mouth clean and healthy (https://www.naturalnews.com/022340.html). For example, baking soda has long been used to not only freshen breath and soothe gum inflammation but to whiten and polish teeth, too (https://www.naturalnews.com/021618.html).

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About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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