Alzheimer's and tooth brushing: Forget to brush today, forget a lot more later?

You may be able to fool your partner with a mint and some mouthwash (please stop doing that, though, it's gross), but your rancid tooth brushing habits could catch up with you later in life.

Doctors sometimes describe the triangular area of one's face encompassing the nose and mouth, where sores left untreated can transmit bacteria to the brain, as the  "danger triangle of the face" or the "triangle of death."

Science | 11.03.2019

The ominous classification was adopted when doctors discovered that blood vessels in this triangular area of your face have close links to blood vessels in your brain, making it easier for dangerous bacteria to enter through open wounds and transmit infections to your cranium, that, if left untreated, could cause death. 

While it's true that bacteria gathered from your unwashed hands as you pop your humiliating pimples can spread to the brain more easily than a cut on your leg, with today's modern medicine, deaths due to bacteria entering these fissures are unlikely.

Read more: What our teeth reveal about us

Although the facial triangle of death isn't going to kill many people, bacteria in its way can still result in some very real consequences, according to a study by researcher Piotr Mydel at the University of Bergen, Norway.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, indicates a relationship between gum disease and one's likelihood to develop Alzheimer's. The more likely you are to lazily "forget" to brush your teeth today, the more you are likely to forget later, Mydel found.

Brush two times a day to maximize your dental hygiene

Gum disease is caused by the buildup of plaque on teeth, which occurs most often when we do not brush or floss regularly. This plaque contains bacteria that can move to the brain, where it produces a protein that can destroy nerve cells, the study found.

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The destruction of nerve cells in the brain leads to memory loss and ultimately Alzheimer's. It is not the only cause, Mydel said, but the bacteria can raise one's risk of developing the degenerative disease and can make it worse.

Around 50% of the population has the gum disease-causing bacteria, but only 10% will experience the worst of its effects, including serious gum disease, loss of teeth and the heightened risk of Alzheimer's, Mydel said.

Read more: What are the don’ts when brushing your teeth?

There are a lot of hard things in the world: It's difficult to raise our families, make it through university, and pay our bills. Brushing your teeth, however, is not one of these things — it's a no-brainer.

While in the long term, lazily forgoing brushing can have detrimental consequences, as shown by Mydel's research, it's also, frankly, gross in the short term.

8 ways to prevent dementia

Losing weight

Those who are overweight should definitely do something about their diet and go to the gym. Obesity is a key factor in developing dementia. More excercise improves blood circulation and makes for a healthier metabolism.

8 ways to prevent dementia

A Mediterranean-style diet

A healthy diet — rich in vegetables, salads and vegetable fats — has a positive effect on your blood vessels. Epidemiological studies show that people who lower their risk of a heart attack or stroke are also likely to develop dementia later than people eating food high on cholesterol.

8 ways to prevent dementia

Get your move on!

Physical activity puts the blood vessels to use and is therefore good against dementia. It also directly helps the nerve system: The brain ultimately controls the body and receives stimulus back from the nerves in the muscles. The ability to keep one's balance and orient oneself improves — as does the memory.

8 ways to prevent dementia

Quit that vice!

It has never been easier to quit smoking: It's prohibited almost everywhere and fewer and fewer people are lighting up. This also reduces the incentive to smoke in company. To put it bluntly: Nicotine is a nerve poison! It also increases the risk of circulatory diseases, which means less oxygen gets to the brain. And that in turn increases the dementia risk.

8 ways to prevent dementia

Alcohol is pure poison

Alcohol is a nerve agent, too. In higher doses it directly damages the brain. Even in lower concentrations it increases the risk of dementia, by increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and damaging essential organs.

8 ways to prevent dementia

Check your blood pressure

Keeping your blood pressure under control is an essential part of dementia prevention. Cardiovascular diseases are often linked to different forms of dementia. You can decrease your blood pressure through sports, healthy nutrition and abstaining from smoking or drinking. However, some people need to take additional medication to reach their blood pressure targets. Talk to your doctor!

8 ways to prevent dementia

Stay mentally active

Any form of mental activity keeps the brain going. But it's not just about solving puzzles or learning things by heart. Social contacts are much more important, since they are challenging and help maintain memory. So stay in touch with your friends, do things together or organize community events!

8 ways to prevent dementia

The best of all worlds: Dancing

Music, company, exercise and body control will keep you young and healthy! There is probably nothing better to prevent dementia than a regular stint on the dance floor. But success is not guaranteed, of course: Dancers can also fall ill with dementia at some point.

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