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School of Dentistry Studies Link Between Oral Health and Memory
Date:6/19/2009

MORGANTOWN, W.Va., June 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Keeping your teeth brushed and flossed can cut down on gum disease, drastically reducing risk of heart attack and stroke, dentists have warned for years. Now researchers at West Virginia University have found a clean mouth may also help preserve memory.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $1.3 million grant over four years to further build on studies linking gum disease and mild to moderate memory loss.

"Older people might want to know there's more reason to keep their mouths clean -- to brush and floss -- than ever," said Richard Crout, D.M.D., Ph.D., an expert on gum disease and associate dean for research in the WVU School of Dentistry. "You'll not only be more likely to keep your teeth, but you'll also reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and memory loss."

Crout will share the grant with gerontologist Bei Wu, Ph.D., formerly of WVU and now a researcher at the University of North Carolina; Brenda L. Plassman, Ph.D., of Duke University, a nationally recognized scientist in the field of memory research; and Jersey Liang, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Michigan. Wu is the principal investigator.

The team will look at health records over many years of several thousand Americans.

"This could have great implications for health of our aging populations," Crout said. "With rates of Alzheimer's skyrocketing, imagine the benefits of knowing that keeping the mouth free of infection could cut down on cases of dementia."

The research builds on an ongoing study of West Virginians aged 70 and older. Working with the WVU School of Medicine, School of Dentistry researchers have given oral exams and memory tests to 270 elderly people in more than a dozen West Virginia counties.

Funded by a $419,000 two-year grant, they
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SOURCE West Virginia University Health Sciences Center
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