Brushing Your Teeth May Lower Dementia Risk (And 8 Other Reasons To Brush)

Brush Teeth Dementia

First Posted: 09/13/12 08:07 AM ET Updated: 09/17/12 12:27 PM ET

There are benefits to keeping your pearly whites so, well, pearly white that go beyond having a picture-perfect smile.

According to a recent study from the University of California, daily brushing is associated with a lower risk of developing dementia later on, Reuters reported.

The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society study included 5,468 people with an average age of 81, who were part of a retirement community in California between 1992 and 2010. Over the 18-year study period, 1,145 eventually developed dementia.

Researchers found that female study participants who didn't practice daily brushing had a 65 percent greater chance of developing dementia than those who did. Similar -- though less pronounced -- results were found for the men; those who didn't brush daily had a 22 percent greater chance of developing the disease than those who kept up their dental habits, Reuters reported.

"In addition to helping maintain natural, healthy, functional teeth, oral health behaviors are associated with lower risk of dementia in older adults," the researchers wrote in the study.

However, they also warned that the study did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between brushing teeth and dementia. "I would be reluctant to draw the conclusion that brushing your teeth would definitely prevent you from getting Alzheimer's disease," study researcher Annlia Paganini-Hill told Reuters.

Similarly, a 2007 study in the Journal of the American Dental Association showed a link between tooth loss and dementia, PsychCentral reported. That research found that people in the study who had the least teeth (ranging anywhere from nine teeth to no teeth at all) had a higher risk of dementia, than people who hadn't lost so many.

Daily brushing has been shown to be a boon to your health in many other ways, as well. From maintaining a healthy weight to decreasing the risk for erectile dysfunction, it's wise to keep your smile healthy. Click through the slideshow below to brush up on the other benefits of good oral hygiene.

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  • Prevent Heart Disease

    Older adults who get <a href="http://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(12)00089-7/abstract">thorough dental cleanings</a> may have a lower heart attack risk than people who follow a less-stringent oral health regimen, according to a 2012 study in the <em>American Journal of Medicine</em>.

  • Prevent Stroke

    The <a href="http://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(12)00089-7/abstract">same study</a> also found a link between regular visits to the dentist -- and getting professional "scaling" (or tooth scraping) -- and a decreased stroke risk.

  • Prevent Gum Disease

    While this is a bit more obvious than the other benefits, regular brushing can also help to prevent gum disease. The <em><a href="http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/nidcr2.nih.gov/Templates/CommonPage.aspx?NRMODE=Published&NRNODEGUID=%7bCE246689-D899-4CC7-B68A-805AD910F4E7%7d&NRORIGINALURL=%2fOralHealth%2fTopics%2fGumDiseases%2fPeriodontalGumDisease%2ehtm&NRCACHEHINT=Guest#howCanI">National Insititute of Dental and Craniofacial Research </a></em> suggests brushing your teeth two times a day to ward off gum disease.

  • Prevent Pneumonia

    A <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-01/aaop-hgm011811.php">2011 study</a> published in the <em>Journal of Periodontology</em> showed that oral infections and diseases can raise the risk of <em>respiratory</em> diseases, including pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Pneumonia and COPD are caused when bacteria get into the lower respiratory tract from the upper part of the throat. If you keep your mouth clean (thereby lowering your risk of oral infection), that could help to keep bacteria from getting into your lower respiratory tract.

  • Promote Healthy Babies

    Believe it or not, having a good dental hygiene routine can be healthy for pregnancy. <a href="http://www.perio.org/consumer/pregnancy-therapy07.htm">A 2007 study</a> published in the <em>Journal of Periodontology Online</em> showed that periodontal disease is linked with pre-term low birth weight. "Our study showed that performing periodontal therapy on pregnant women who have periodontal disease may reduce the risk of preterm delivery to equal that of periodontally healthy women," study researcher Catia M. Gazolla, DDS, said in a statement. "These are important findings that we hope all pregnant women will take to their dental professionals when discussing their periodontal health."

  • Keep Your Eating In Check

    Brushing your teeth also serves as an indicator to your brain that mealtime's over, <a href="http://www.prevention.com/weight-loss/weight-loss-tips/16-simple-ways-eat-less/15-brush-your-teeth-after-dinner">reports <em>Prevention</em></a>. Brushing your teeth after a meal can help ward off mindless eating and consuming more calories than you need. Plus, it's worthwhile to mention that after brushing your teeth, <a href="http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/19516">food doesn't quite taste the same</a> (you can thank chemicals in toothpaste for that taste-bud effect), <em>Mental Floss</em> noted.

  • Help Your Brain

    A 2010 study from the NYU College of Dentistry showed that <a href="http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Articles/ADA/2010/article/ADA-09-Gum-Disease-May-Play-a-Role-in-Alzheimers.cvsp">gum disease</a> may increase the risk for Alzheimer's disease. Again, brushing and keeping up a clean kisser can help ward off oral infections and possibly lessen the risk for Alzheimer's disease.

  • Promote A Healthy Sex Life

    While having fresh breath in the bedroom is reason enough to keep up the brushing, there's more: A clean mouth may help to prevent erectile dysfunction. <em>Prevention</em> magazine reports that chronic gum disease is slightly more common in <a href="http://www.prevention.com/health/sex-relationships/healthy-teeth-better-sex">men with erectile dysfunction</a> of a moderate to severe level, compared with men who don't have erectile dysfunction.

  • How to Brush Teeth Correctly

    Shane Methal explains how to brush teeth correctly in this dental care video.

For more on dental health, click here.