The Mouth-Mind Connection: How Oral Health Influences Brain Health: Part 2

Last week, in Part 1, we explored the significant connection between oral health and brain health, highlighting how bacteria in the mouth can contribute to diseases like dementia, and outlined the three main types of dementia: Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, and Parkinson’s. This week, in Part 2, we will delve deeper into the demographic that is most affected by dementia and strategies for prevention.

Why Are Elderly Most Affected?
As a patient’s cognitive ability declines, so does their oral hygiene, causing more bacteria to invade, which progresses dementia even further, and so on and so on…Now we have compounding effects atop compounding effects. Starting to get the picture? So, let’s talk about the main reasons that dementia patients are primarily older.

      • Reason #1: the older someone is, the more likely they are to have an oral or systemic disease, which we now know is related to dementia.
      • Reason #2: the elderly are the most likely to be missing teeth, whether that be from prolonged gum disease, cavities or infections, or just having lived longer and experienced more accidents and wear and tear. Missing teeth leads to digestive and nutritional problems which will affect brain health.
      • Reason #3: the elderly often experience a loss in community and social interactions which is critical to maintaining cognitive function and healthspan.

Researchers have found that adults with missing teeth are 48 percent more likely to develop cognitive impairment and 28 percent more likely to develop dementia. Why? If you’re unable to chew healthy, nutritious foods it’s easy to turn to high carb processed snacks that are easier to swallow. This leads to a spike in blood glucose levels, hence the condition, “diabetes of the brain.” No nutrients mean more inflammation!

So, What Can We Do?
Here’s the good news – 1/3 of all Alzheimer’s cases are preventable just by keeping Pg and Fn bacteria and blood glucose low. But this doesn’t mean you can skimp on your oral hygiene routine. Taking care of your brain health starts at home with the simple act of brushing your teeth – or helping an elderly parent brush theirs. Just by brushing regularly you can eliminate those blood-surfing bacteria (Pg and Fn) that could infiltrate your brain.

Flossing – I know we all drag our feet to do it – needs to be a big part of your daily routine. Then add mouthwash (alcohol-free!) on top and you’ve hit the oral health trifecta. You can’t go wrong.

On top of your at-home routine, you need to see your dentist at the very minimum twice a year…but I really suggest upping the frequency of your visits.

As a dentist, I’ve seen firsthand how tooth decay and tooth loss can put you in the grave expeditiously. Now, I advise my elderly patients to keep their teeth at all costs. If you want to live a long and healthy life, mind your teeth! I know: I’m a dentist, and of course I’d say that. But there is a direct correlation between the number of teeth you retain, and the average number of years lived. Studies clearly show a 4 percent increase in the five-year survival rate per additional tooth retained at the age of seventy. The tipping point for survival is keeping at least twenty teeth. This means taking proper care of your teeth can actually SAVE your life.

This doesn’t have to happen to you! Awareness is the first step. And there are tools that can help. Your dentist can help to get you on a daily oral hygiene routine and identify signs of oral bacteria that could impact your brain health. Good oral health means good brain health. Our brains need to be protected at all costs, so start with the simple and easy steps to keep your mouth and teeth (and I mean keeping most of your teeth as you age) healthy for years to come.

Want to know more about the connection between oral health and brain health? Then grab a copy of Saved By the Mouth or schedule a Telehealth appointment today.

To learn more, please visit Dr. Katie Lee’s page on our Protocol Directory.

References are available at

Katie Lee DDS