Our dental and brain health are surprisingly connected. New Swedish research finds that reversing silent gum disease, which affects 70 percent of women over 65, may be the best defense against memory issues.
Brush Before Brushing
“Bacteria from the mouth can travel to the brain, where they trigger toxic proteins linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s,” explains Inna Chern, D.D.S. Instead of heading straight in with toothpaste, Dr. Chern recommends spending two minutes ‘pre-brushing’ teeth with a dry toothbrush. European research found this cuts plaque buildup by 58 percent, since unlubricated bristles whisk away bacterial biofilm lurking along the gums. Follow with regular brushing to drive fluoride into teeth.
Swap the Floss
Dentists have stressed the importance of flossing for more than 200 years, but just published research finds that using interdental brushes ($3.88, Amazon) — are even better at getting into the nooks and crannies around teeth where brain-harming bacteria thrive. One reason they work so well: “An interdental brush’s bristles can easily pick up more debris than thinner floss,” says Dr. Chern — especially important since as we get older, our gums recede and our teeth shift, making reaching every surface of teeth tougher, particularly around bridges and dental implants.
Rinse with Coconut
Scientists have discovered the reason the Ayurvedic practice of “oil pulling,” swishing teeth with coconut oil ($9.97, Amazon), works so well at reducing microbes: “The oil leaves the surfaces of the teeth too slippery for plaque to adhere to,” says Dr. Chern. Done daily, research finds oil pulling reduces plaque by 60 percent and gingivitis by 56 percent. To do: Swish 1 Tbs. of coconut oil for 5–10 minutes daily, then spit in the garbage.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.
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