Another reason to brush our teeth
The phrase “I forgot to brush my teeth” has a totally different meaning for me now, and an ironic one at that. I could think of so many reasons why we should be conscious about our oral hygiene, but I have discovered a more pressing premise. I was reading about the latest developments in the field of dentistry and I came across a title that stirred my curiosity. The title said something about dementia being linked to proper care of our teeth.
A cohort study of 5,468 people from a retirement community in California expressed the possibility of an inverse relationship between brushing teeth and dementia. This study was called the Leisure World Cohort Study that began in the early 1980s. There were 3,735 women and 1,733 men in this study. Their ages averaged at 81 and they tested negative for dementia, confirmed during a survey conducted in 1992. The questions included general questions on teeth care and the categorized responses were “every day”, “sometimes” and “never”. For this study, the researchers assumed that a person needs 10 teeth in the upper jaw and 6 teeth in the lower jaw to be able to chew properly. If a person has 16 teeth and they are more than 60 years of age, then this means that they took care of their teeth well.
The results were fascinating. A total of 1,145 elderly people were diagnosed with dementia. The researchers discovered that men that had an inadequate amount of teeth and did not wear dentures had a 91% increased risk of developing dementia. Also, men that did not visit their dentists for the past 12 months had an 89% increased rate of developing dementia that those men that had regular dentist visits. On the other hand, women that did not brush their teeth regularly had a 65% increased risk of developing dementia.
However, the researchers of the study clearly stated that they cannot tell for sure by what mechanism overall dental care is directly related to dementia. They only concluded that maintaining “natural, healthy, functional teeth, dental health is associated with lower risk of dementia in older adults” (“Can cleaning teeth help prevent dementia?”, 2012). They also stated that there are two important limitations: possibility of chance findings and possible influence of confounding factors.
Despite the limitations of the study, the study conveys a very important lesson on health. We should be conscious of our dental care habits, as we should brush our teeth at least twice a day and with toothpaste that contains fluoride. This practice should be instilled in the daily routine of a person as early as the preschool years. Early training doesn’t hurt at all, especially if it turns out beneficial in the long run. But is there a one way, be all, standardized way of caring for our teeth?
How we take care of our teeth is a personal discretionary activity. But here are the most effective and efficient ways of teeth care.
How to care for your teeth
First, brush your teeth at least two times a day for two minutes each time. Make sure that you are able to reach all sides of your teeth and your tongue as well. Ideally, you should brush your teeth before you sleep since the mouth has less salivary protection when we are sleeping. On the other hand, brushing your teeth during the day will protect the teeth from toxins and other byproducts from the food and beverages that we intake.
Second, make sure that the bristles of your toothbrush are dry during the first two minutes of cleaning. It is a common misconception that the toothpaste is the one that cleans the teeth, when in fact it is the mechanical action of the bristles upon physical contact with the teeth. You also have the option to brush your teeth with water alone, but of course you wouldn’t get the benefit of fluoride.
Third, floss your teeth after every meal or practically after eating any food that will stick to your teeth. It will definitely clean all of the areas inside your mouth that cannot be reached by your toothbrush.
Fourth, use a tongue scraper! This is very helpful especially for young children that still take baby milk formula. The milk leaves a stain on the tongue that creates a foul smell. In the absence of a tongue scraper, use your toothbrush.
Fifth, invest in fluorinated mouthwash. Fluoride helps strengthen the teeth enamel but extra caution should be taken in the case of children. Make sure that they do not swallow the mouthwash. Also, the best time to gargle with mouthwash is before going to bed since the salivary protection is weak during that time.
Sixth, avoid snacking constantly. This is the primary cause of plaque build up.
Seventh, avoid sugary or sticky foods. Sugar keeps the bacteria alive in your mouth. Eat vegetables instead of candies, and water instead of soda. Try to avoid drinking fruit juices as well because they are full of acids and natural sugars.
Eighth, try to chew less on tough foods. Nuts and seeds are examples of this kind of food and they could damage your tooth enamel to an alarming extent.
Ninth, visit your dentist at least twice a year. In addition, do not neglect a tooth problem and visit your dentist right away because they are the ones that can offer immediate solutions to your teeth problems.
Lastly, be a responsible owner of your teeth. You can have a list of all the possible warnings and dental care checklist, but it is up to you to follow through and attend to your dental needs.
Other related literature
Now that we have established that how well you care for your teeth can affect the likelihood of the occurrence of dementia, and that there are so many ways to take good care of our teeth, are there any other co-morbid diseases related to teeth care? Yes, and it gets more interesting.
According to a study in the Journal of American Medicine (2012), older adults that have regular dental check-ups and a more conscious dental regimen have a lower heart attack risk than people who follow a less ideal dental regimen. The same study found that there is a link between regular visits to the dentist and tooth scraping and a lower stroke risk.
Another interesting finding is that keeping your mouth clean will help prevent the risk of pneumonia. Pneumonia can be caused when bacteria enters the lower respiratory tract from the upper part of the throat. Keeping the mouth clean can lower this risk. This was based on the study published in the Journal of Periodontology (2011).
A study that is closely related to the study on dementia and brushing of teeth was conducted in the New York University in 2010. The results showed that gum disease may increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Brushing teeth regularly and monitoring kissing activities can ward off oral infections, thus lowering the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
As if this is not getting interesting, another study found a link between proper teeth care and erectile dysfunction. Prevention magazine reported that chronic gum disease is more common in men with erectile dysfunction (moderate to severe level) compared to men without erectile dysfunction.
Time and again, I myself have been a culprit of oral care negligence and this has not gotten me anywhere near a perfect smile or farther away from the dentist. More importantly, I realized that we should not take our teeth for granted. It could really create bigger problems for us in the long run so it would definitely help if we are vigilant with regards to caring for our teeth.
I’m sure that the medical world will never cease to find further links between a confounding factor and teeth care. The bottom line is that we should be conscious of the way we treat our teeth, develop a healthy oral care habit, influence other people to do the same (especially children), and consult with your dentist at least twice a year. Read about the latest developments in the dental world because awareness is a powerful weapon against any disease or condition. With this, I’d like to say happy brushing!