Why brushing your teeth is good for your brain


Problems caused by poor dental hygiene can spread to the rest of the body and cause other illnesses

When we meet a person with cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s or diabetes, we do not think that they have not brushed their teeth well.

We associate poor oral hygiene with problems in the mouth such as cavities, inflammation of the gums and bad breath, but not with complications in other parts of the body.

Still, good oral health is essential for optimal body function.

Oral diseases can contribute to the development of diseases systemic.

In fact, there is new evidence indicating that bacteria from the mouth can get to other places of the body and cause problems.

Even in our brain!

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The only way to avoid cavities and periodontitis – an infection of the gums – is to maintain good oral hygiene.

In general, each person has between 100 and 200 species of oral bacteria of the 700 identified oral species.

When we ask someone how many bacteria they think are there per milliliter of saliva, they often underestimate the correct answer: we have about 100 million bacteria per milliliter of saliva.

These bacteria live on teeth, tongue, gums, and other oral surfaces.

There they form structured communities like the dental plaque and white coat of the tongue.

When released, they enter saliva.

Adding up all the bacteria in the mouth, the number reaches billions.

We call this set the “oral microbiota”.

Teacher teaching brushing teeth

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Aside from showing a better smile, oral health is important to good systemic health.


In general these microorganisms they will be our friends while we take care of them.

First, they protect against external pathogens.

positive effects

When new bacteria enter the mouth, it is much more difficult for them to survive because there is an army of their own bacteria inhabiting that space.

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Also, beneficial oral bacteria convert nitrate from vegetables and fruits to nitrite.

This can have positive effects on the body such as lowering blood pressure and antidiabetic effects.

Normally, our own bacteria are not pathogenic, but they can cause oral diseases in healthy people due to unhealthy habits.

A unhealthy diet or poor oral hygiene They can cause an imbalance: some types of bacteria increase in number and others decrease.

This is called “dysbiosis.”

Tooth decay

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Some bacteria in the oral microbiota increase their presence and others reduce it in caries and periodontal diseases, such as gingivitis and periodontitis.

For example, if we consume sugar, bacteria in dental plaque that eat sugars increase in number.

These turn sugar into acids organic.

Some acid producers are very resistant to it, while sensitive ones die.

If we consume too much sugar, the bacteria that eat sugar and produce acid increase so much in the dental plaque that acidification damages the enamel.

Over time, this can lead to cavities.

The plate, enemy of the body

Another more relevant example for systemic diseases is periodontal diseases.

Due to lack of proper oral hygiene, dental plaque accumulates.

Then our body reacts with the inflammation of the gums, which includes an increase in antibacterial components and immune cells to reduce the number of bacteria.

If we do not treat such inflammation, the bacteria that are most resistant to the inflammatory response may increase in number, while the sensitive bacteria die.

On the left a normal tooth, on the right one covered with plaque that has caused inflation in the gums.

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On the left a normal tooth, on the right one covered with plaque that has caused inflammation in the gums.

In addition, due to inflammation, more protein comes from a blood-like gingival serum that comes out of the gingival sulcus.

These become food for some bacteria, stimulate their accumulation and create, in this way, a vicious circle.

If the initial inflammation, which we call gingivitis and is generally reversible, is not treated, a chronic and destructive inflammation: periodontitis.

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Periodontitis causes loss of human tissue and the formation of periodontal pockets filled with bacteria around the teeth.

Other diseases

There is evidence that periodontitis can contribute to the development of different systemic complications and diseases.

Having periodontitis increases the risk of, for example, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, hypertension, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and labor complications.

In people with periodontitis, different mechanisms can contribute to the development of other diseases.

For example, the large number of proinflammatory molecules produced by human cells in inflamed gums can reach other parts of the body and cause inflammatory reactions in those areas.

Going to the dentist to treat periodontitis is important to reduce this inflammation.

Dentist consultation

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In periodontitis, bacteria from dental plaque can reach other parts of the body and cause complications.

In addition, it has been discovered that some bacteria that increase during periodontitis and compounds produced by them can reach different parts of the body. by the blood or gastrointestinal route.

Said bacteria have been detected inside immune cells circulating in the blood, atherosclerotic plaque, the placenta and intestinal tumors, among others.

The best-studied bacterium associated with periodontitis is called Porhyromonas gingivalis and several mechanisms have been found that explain how it can contribute to destructive inflammation gums and the appearance of systemic diseases.

Sometimes found in low amounts in healthy people, but it is common in periodontal pockets of people with periodontitis.


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It all starts with plaque and cavities.

Recently, a group of researchers studied the brains of people who died with Alzheimer’s.

They found DNA from Porhyromonas gingivalis and enzymes called gingipains, which degrade human proteins.

Furthermore, the amount of these enzymes was correlated with gravity of the illness.

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The researchers fed high amounts of this bacteria to mice and the pathogen managed to colonize the brain.

Animals developed symptoms Alzheimer’s related, but those who received a gingipain treatment, with an inhibitor developed by the study authors, were better off.

One conclusion was that Porhyromonas gingivalis could get to the brain and, over the years, contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s.


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Brushing should prevent the build-up of bacterial plaque, a colorless layer made up of bacteria and sugars that sticks to teeth.

The healthy human body has a mutually beneficial relationship with the human microbiota, including the oral microbiota.

By inadequate hygiene or an unhealthy dietOral bacteria can cause complications in the mouth and the rest of the body.

Twice daily

The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste (1,000 – 1,500 ppm), cleaning between teeth daily and visit regularly to the dentist.

Oral diseases should not be left untreated.

In this regard, in the US states where oral treatments are reimbursed, insurance spends less money on diabetes, strokes and heart attacks.

Keep in mind that other factors, such as smoke (also electronic cigarettes) and the genetic susceptibility, increase the risk of developing oral and systemic diseases.

Still, good oral hygiene is the key to preventing oral disease.

Aside from showing a better smile, it is important to maintain a good health throughout the body.

* The authors of this article are Bob T. Rosier, postdoctoral student of Fisabio, and Alejandro Mira Obrador, Senior Researcher at Fisabio.

This article was originally published in The Conversation. You can read it here.

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