As we study the link between the health of our mouth and the health of our body as a whole, it becomes clear that the health of the mouth is often a direct reflection of our overall health. At first, that sounds kind of crazy, but when you think about it, it makes sense. The number one way things from the outside world enter our body is through the mouth. So, before something interacts with our internal organs, it first interacts with our mouth
Something that is not well understood by most people is that one of the quickest ways for bacteria to enter our bloodstream is through the small blood vessels in our gum tissue. If our gums become inflamed and gum disease sets in, then these capillaries (tiny blood vessels) in the gum tissue dilate and become much wider. This becomes a highway for bacteria and other substances to enter the bloodstream and be pumped to all parts of the body.
With that base knowledge, let’s turn our attention to the link between regular flossing and reduced incidences of dementia. If your gum tissue is regularly cleaned and properly stimulated, the capillaries in that gum tissue are shrunk down, making it much more difficult for bacteria to enter your bloodstream. Even if bacteria successfully enters the bloodstream, the body has safety measures in place to prevent that bacteria from interacting with the brain. This aptly named “blood-brain barrier” allows blood to enter and nurture the brain tissue while filtering out harmful bacteria. Unfortunately, one oral bacteria in particular has proven to be uniquely adept at outsmarting this blood-brain barrier; a bacteria called P. Gingivalis. This bacteria is most often found in gum tissue affected by periodontal (gum) disease. Once it passes the blood-brain barrier into the brain, cell-surface proteinases on P. Gingivalis called gingipains can destroy the endothelial cells in brain tissue which can lead to conditions like dementia.
That was a lot of fancy words, so let’s break it down a little bit. Flossing is especially important in the prevention of dementia because of its ability to prevent gum disease. Gum disease creates an environment that allows certain bacteria to thrive and multiply. This is one of only a few bacteria that have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier into the brain. So, flossing prevents gum disease and not having gum disease is critical in preventing harmful oral bacteria from entering the blood and brain. Once these bacteria enter the brain, the subsequent damage caused can make the development of dementia more likely.
One very difficult aspect of having dementia is forgetting common everyday tasks, like flossing or brushing your teeth. Even if someone has a full or part-time caregiver, there may be obstacles or resistance when it comes to regular dental care. As the health of their gum tissue continues to worsen, so can their dementia symptoms. Our goal as dental providers is to help people understand this connection between oral health and brain health so that they can take every preventative measure possible when it comes to dementia. I have had multiple grandparents suffer from dementia and am familiar with how it changes everyday life. That’s why one of my main goals in designing the Slate Electric Flosser was to create a tool that not only cleans and stimulates the gum tissue, but is easy to use at any age. I think we accomplished that. Try it out and let us know!