Defeat Dementia

Barbara Tritz
· June 9, 2023 ·

4 minutes

We Can Defeat Dementia

This month I challenged myself to write a short “pearl of dental wisdom” article every day. So far, I have been posting about the airway, proper breathing, and myofunctional disorders. Today’s (not-so-short post) “nugget of news you can use” is about the connection between airway issues, brain health, and its link to the oral cavity (I.E. your mouth). Your brain needs your immediate love and attention. Brain health is neglected. Let’s change that.

We take care of our hearts and know we should eat right and exercise. Now I suggest it’s time to add “brain health” to our dialog. And, SURPRISE, the beginning of brain health might just start in the dental hygienist’s chair.

Currently, there are 53 million people worldwide suffering from cognitive impairment. You may recognize it as Alzheimer’s Dementia but there are many different types of dementia. Dementia is the general name associated with a decline in intellectual activity such as thinking, reasoning, behavior, and remembering. It is called the slow death by those affected by it- both the patient and the families. It is a slippery slide into an abyss. The good news is it is 90% lifestyle so there are a lot of things we can do to prevent and heal this decline.

The sad news is this number is projected to increase to 153 million by the year 2050. That’s really not that far away timewise, and we need to start addressing this now so those numbers NEVER come to fruition.

Dementia is 90% lifestyle so there is lots we can do to prevent it. Please read Dr. Dale Bredesen’s book: The End of Alzheimers: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline.

Defeating Dementia

The BIG SECRET (and I think this needs to be emphasized more) – The health of your mouth determines the health of your brain.

Healthy Brains Need Work

If your mouth is infected, your gums bleed, you have cavities, broken teeth, snore, or have sleep apnea then you are also at a much higher risk for cognitive decline. If the mouth is on fire, then the brain’s also on fire. Everything’s connected. As I suggest to my patients, what happens in the mouth doesn’t stay in the mouth.

The Oral-Systemic Connection

Oral health and wellness are about so much more than just brushing and flossing. Think about the fuzzy slippery plaque biofilm living on your teeth. (Please click here if you need a reminder of what they look like.) They don’t just stay there on the teeth. The pathogens (bacterial, viral and fungi) take over and infect the body with every chew, floss or brush/polish. (More on that in the coming posts.)

Broken Blood Brain Barrier

The thing I want to emphasize today is the airway connection. This is the key. Sleep apnea and sleep breathing disorders make the blood-brain barrier permeable. What should be protecting you from the oral pathogens – the blood-brain barrier– is instead a screen door allowing all those oral pathogens to “come on in” and make the same slimy biofilm they make in the mouth. (Not only does it allow oral pathogens to enter, but a broken blood brain barrier also allows other pathogens to enter as well.)

Inflammation in the mouth means leakygums and leaky brain

Think how hard it is to remove that plaque when you are brushing. How fuzzy and thick that plaque was when you “forgot” to brush for a few days (when you went camping as a kid 😉 ). That same plaque biofilm in the brain is just as impenetrable and creates the same inflammation in the brain as it does in the mouth. These bacteria and viruses excrete (yes – bacteria poop) toxins into the brain. This creates neuroinflammation in the brain. The same inflammation in the mouth- think red bleeding gums- is now happening in the brain. Bleeding gums mean the blood vessels are “leaky” throughout the body. The brain makes the beta-amyloid plaque and the tau tangles to protect itself from these toxins. We can’t brush out the biofilm in the brain but we can and need to zoom in on prevention by creating a healthy airway and a healthy mouth.

(There are certainly many other factors going on that are connected to creating the perfect environment for cognitive decline. I am only discussing the dental -airway-inflammation angle. Dr. Bredesen has much more information in his book.)

Give your brain some lovin’

Healthy Brains

So, the bottom line for today- clean up the mouth. Stop accepting a little bleeding – IE periodontal disease and that small cavity IE tooth decay. Address those sleep apnea/breathing issues. Ask your dental hygienist to screen for all these problems AND FIX them once and for all. More on screening and prevention in the coming days.

We can Defeat Dementia. We are smart. Love your brain


Barbara Tritz BRDH

Queen of Dental Health and Brain Health and Sleep Health

Hello, I'm Barbara Tritz

Unveiling the Stories Behind Dental Hygiene

Loving science, especially biology, from an early age, Barbara is a registered dental hygienist, certified biological hygienist, and orofacial myofunctional therapist. In 2019, she received the Hu-Friedy/ADHA Master Clinician Award from the American Dental Hygienist Association.

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