With dementia, dental care gets worse, but tooth loss seems to be not only an outcome but also a risk factor for memory decline in late life. This is a new finding of the Nun Study, where data about tooth loss and dementia in more than a hundred deceased nuns have been analyzed over a longer period of time: The women with the fewest teeth had the highest risk of dementia.
Toothbrush and floss against Alzheimer's?
Sorry, but such a conclusion would overwork the results of this study. It only reports a link, a correlation, but does not tell us anything about a possible cause. For instance, it is not clear if bacteria that cause inflammation of the teeth and of the gums may harm the brain. Only in this case, fighting gum disease would have a preventive effect on dementia.
Many common causes may be hidden
One of them has been revealed by a study showing that self-discipline protects against Alzheimer's disease. Keeping his teeth in good health may just be one aspect of a careful, painstaking character, and the real protective effect may be some mechanism in the brain that we do not yet understand, rather than toxins from tooth bacteria.
In addition, a good dental care requires some manual skills, and the decline of these skills may precede a mental decline.
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