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

've discovered that about 23 percent of the group suffers from mild to moderate memory loss.

A blood draw is also part of the study for research subjects who agree.

"If you have a gum infection, you'll have an increased level of inflammatory byproducts," Crout explained. "We're looking for markers in the blood that show inflammation to see if there is a link to memory problems. We'd like to go full circle and do an intervention -- to clean up some of the problems in the mouth and then see if the inflammatory markers go down."

Researchers don't yet understand whether microorganisms in the mouth create health problems or whether the body's inflammatory response is to blame. It may be a combination of both. Researchers also don't know much about mild to moderate memory loss, even though the connection between severe dementia and gum disease is well-known, Crout said.

In the future, dentists may routinely administer memory tests to their older patients, he said.

"A dentist may see a longtime, older patient with an area of the mouth that's showing signs of inflammation because of not being properly cleaned daily," Crout said. "Many times we as clinicians, however, don't think of this as due to a memory problem. The patient may not be flossing or brushing properly as we have instructed they should. But this research indicates that the problem may be due to memory loss as opposed to noncompliance."

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SOURCE West Virginia University Health Sciences Center
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