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 Jan 10, 2020

Did you know flossing (cleaning between your teeth) has been scientifically proven to reduce your risk with regard to dementia, stroke and heart disease??

As a hygienist I’m a bit fanatical about Flossing (cleaning between my teeth) Yes, it’s a bit of a drag but is now an ingrained habit. Only a third of the population floss/clean between their teeth regularly and another third say they never clean between teeth.  

Several years ago, research showed that ‘flossing/cleaning between’ not only reduces the risk of gum disease but might also cut the risk of having a heart attack while more recent studies suggest that it could also reduce your risk of developing dementia.

So why is oral health linked to these diseases? The answer is inflammation. The bacteria that causes gum disease can travel through the blood into other organs, and over time cause damage. One of the most common sites for inflammation in the body is in the mouth (gingivitis) and a proven way to reduce this is to brush and clean between your teeth regularly and to a good standard.


So, what is the link between Alzheimer’s and bacteria from the mouth?

We may not know the exact mechanism but we are all familiar with the body’s inflammatory response. When you cut yourself, your immune system sends white blood cells to the area to attack and destroy harmful bacteria etc.  This is what causes the redness, swelling, and discomfort we feel around the injury. This is called acute inflammation.

Acute inflammation is essential as it creates an environment that kills off invading bacteria, viruses and the like. Once this is achieved the inflammation disappears. However, in some cases the inflammation isn’t switched off and becomes a chronic/long term condition.

One of the things known to cause chronic inflammation is having a persistent source of infection.  If we are not clearing in between our teeth on a regular basis there is a ready and persistent supply of bacteria which gives rise to chronic inflammation – which research has shown has a role in diseases ranging from heart disease and cancer to dementia and depression.

Flossing at all agesHow does this relate to Cleaning your teeth?     

Your mouth is full of billions of bacteria, most of which are harmless.  These bacteria join together and form a plaque (Biofilm).  The bacteria release toxins causing a response from your immune system i.e. inflammation known as Gingivitis.

The risk is that some bacteria will enter the blood stream, travel round your body and may cause further damage.

We’ve known for some time that there is a link between infection of your gums and damage to arteries and to your heart. And now there is research providing evidence the link with the brain that inflammation in the mouth can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s. The research showed that the brains of people who had died with Alzheimer’s were more likely to be infected with bacteria, Porphyromonas gingivalis, which are associated with severe gum disease. Toxins produced by the bacteria called gingipains, were also detected in the brains

The research showed, at least in mice, these bacteria and the related toxins can destroy brain tissue.  In order to protect itself the brain produces amyloid plaques, a common feature of Alzheimer’s.

So, for your long-term health, get the floss and interdental brushes out and get cleaning… regularly!

Gentle Dental Blog