Generations of Smiles - May 2022

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W

hat if there was something you could do every day that would help your brain health, improve your memory and actually boost your learning abilities as you got older?

Similarly, because a person with pain in their mouth might not want to eat certain foods, the potential nutritional value that might have been beneficial to the brain is lost.

Well, there is something you can do. It’s as simple as keeping your mouth healthy.

Finally, once brain ability declines, there’s the further potential that dental health may worsen because of reduced attention to oral hygiene.

There is plenty of evidence that shows poor oral health can lead to or worsen a host of illnesses and disorders, including heart disease, inflammation and diabetes. In the brain alone, gum disease can increase the risk for strokes or dementia and Alzheimer’s disease1. Now, some studies are showing that poor oral health can affect things like cognitive function, memory and learning loss.

How does that happen? Generally, having cavities or gum disease can lead to inflammation that travels through similar pathways that lead to the brain2. Not only can that inflammation lead to increased risk of strokes or other brain diseases, but it can affect the way the brain works. Thus, cognitive functions that we use every day, such as remembering, learning new skills and solving problems are diminished.

People typically think about older adults when it comes to poor oral health and the brain, but children and younger adults can also be affected. Early tooth loss caused by tooth decay can result in a failure to thrive, speech delay and reduced self-esteem. Left untreated, the pain and infection caused by tooth decay can result in problems with eating, speaking, attentiveness and learning3. With that said, there are things you can do to help your brain and ensure that your mind is in tip-top shape. First off, make sure you’re brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing and seeing your dentist regularly. If you have any bleeding, pain or other dental and health problems, let your dentist know. For younger children, ask your dentist if they need extra protection, such as dental sealants. Keeping your brain healthy follows the same rules as making sure the rest of your body is fit: Eating well, drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep. So keep taking care of your mouth. Your brain will remember to thank you.

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