You might think of dental problems as being localised, as in, they only affect your teeth and mouth. Certainly, the majority of dental problems begin and end in the mouth, but this isn't always the whole story. Some seemingly minor, untreated dental problems can have far more serious consequences, even though these will not become evident until many years later. It has in fact been discovered that untreated gum disease can contribute to cognitive impairments in later life. What does this mean exactly?
Oral Health and Dementia
A study published by the American Academy of Neurology has determined a link between poor oral health and dementia in later life. This link is certainly not immediate, and it can be that the cognitive decline associated with dementia won't appear until decades later. There are also some acknowledged shortcomings to the study, in that the age of its subjects was already older than the average population. There's also the fact that while a link has been identified, researchers are unable to determine just why gum disease can contribute to the onset of dementia.
To some extent, the why isn't especially important to the average person. Preliminary findings have suggested that the cumulative effect of oral bacteria has the ability to compromise a person's overall health, contributing to certain health problems such as cardiovascular disease and dementia. Naturally, more research will be able to fill in the gaps, and yet this study demonstrates how your oral health can impact your overall health in unexpected and serious ways. But what can you do about it?
Regular Dental Checkups
If you do your best to maintain a high standard of oral health and visit your dentist for regular checkups, then you're doing everything right. The issue is that many Australians don't see their dentist regularly. It's estimated that some two million Aussies either delay dental treatment or largely abstain from it altogether. Regular dental checkups are invaluable in the fight against periodontal disease, as they include scaling (plaque removal), which is difficult to accomplish at home, and your dentist can spot any issues before they have a chance to worsen.
You shouldn't be alarmed about a potential link between gum disease and dementia, although you should do everything you can to avoid this link. This is achieved by taking the best possible care of your teeth, and by seeing your dentist on a regular basis.
Reach out to a local dentist to schedule an appointment today.