Aug 21 (Reuters) – People who keep their teeth and gums healthy with regular brushing may have a lower risk of developing dementia later in life, according to a U.S. study.

Researchers at the University of California who followed nearly 5,500 elderly people over an 18-year-period found that those who reported brushing their teeth less than once a day were up to 65 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who brushed daily.

“Not only does the state of your mind predict what kind of oral health habits you practice, it may be that your oral health habits influence whether or not you get dementia,” said Annlia Paganini-Hill, who led the study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Inflammation stoked by gum disease-related bacteria is implicated in a host of conditions including heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Some studies have also found that people with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, have more gum disease-related bacteria in their brains than a person without Alzheimer’s, Paganini-Hill said.

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