This Bathroom Habit Makes Your Dementia Risk Soar, Study Says

Failing to do this one thing in the bathroom can have a major cognitive effect.

Your dementia risk is linked to a range of factors—some of which, like age and genetics, are completely outside of your control. However, experts say that certain common habits can significantly increase your risk of developing the progressive and incurable condition. In fact, studies now warn that there's one thing you may be doing in the bathroom that can send your dementia risk soaring. They say this one habit may make your dementia risk 65 percent higher than if you follow doctors' recommendations on the matter. Read on to find out which bathroom habit may be putting you at high risk and how you can lower your odds of developing dementia.

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Failing to brush your teeth daily is linked with up to a 65 percent higher risk of dementia.

Older couple brushing their teeth in the bathroom

According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, failing to brush your teeth every day can greatly increase your odds of someday developing dementia. In fact, after reviewing data from 5,468 older adults over an 18-year study period, the researchers determined that "individuals who reported not brushing their teeth daily had a 22 percent to 65 percent greater risk of dementia than those who brushed three times daily."

When the researchers separated the participants by sex, they found something even more surprising. "Men with inadequate natural masticatory function who did not wear dentures had a 91 percent greater risk of dementia than those with adequate natural masticatory function." For reference, the team defined "natural masticatory function" as having 10 or more upper teeth and six or more lower teeth—meaning your risk is only this high if you suffer from some serious dental decay.

RELATED: If You Eat This Once a Day, Your Dementia Risk Increases, Study Says.

Experts say dementia appears to be linked to the presence of periodontal disease.

Older Man at the Dentist Getting His Gums Checked, health questions after 40

Dental experts explain that those with poor dental hygiene may be more susceptible to forms of dementia including Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia due to certain bacteria that can grow in the mouth.

"Porphyromonas gingivalis is the most common culprit of gum disease. In fact, a recent study suggests that plaques of beta-amyloid protein, a major hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, may be produced as a response to this infection," explains the National Institute on Aging (NIA). By failing to brush regularly, bacteria in the mouth can lead to periodontal disease, which, in turn, may be associated with higher dementia risk.

Nearly half of adults have some form of gum disease.

Woman at dentist with pain in her jaw

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that over 47 percent of adults over 30 years old have some form of periodontal disease. They add that the occurrence of gum disease increases with age—over 70 percent of those ages 65 and over are affected by the condition.

Other risk factors can also determine your likelihood of a problem, says the CDC. "This condition is more common in men than women (56.4 percent vs 38.4 percent), those living below the federal poverty level (65.4 percent), those with less than a high school education (66.9 percent), and current smokers (64.2 percent)," reports the health authority.

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Specific symptoms may tip you off to a problem.

Man having dental work done

Gum disease occurs when bacteria in the mouth infect and inflame the gum tissue surrounding the tooth, the CDC explains. Bacteria in the mouth can develop into plaque and eventually tartar, which can lead to gum disease. "Tartar build-up can spread below the gum line, which makes the teeth harder to clean. Then, only a dental health professional can remove the tartar and stop the periodontal disease process," CDC experts warn.

Talk to your dentist if you notice any symptoms of gum disease. Among the most severe symptoms are bleeding gums, loose teeth, or tooth loss. However, you may also notice more subtle signs of gum disease, including persistent bad breath, red or swollen gums, painful chewing, sensitive teeth, and receding gums.

And, moving forward, be sure to brush and floss your teeth regularly. Besides the more obvious benefits of good oral health and hygiene, you also stand to reap the benefits of better cognitive health in the future.

RELATED: If You're Driving Like This, It Could Be an Early Alzheimer's Sign, Study Says.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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