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Researchers from the University of California Irvine and the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California stated in a recent report that, in addition to the risks of heart disease and oral cancer, those with poor dental hygiene may be in danger of developing dementia later in life.

The study, entitled “Dentition, Dental Health Habits, and Dementia: The Leisure World Cohort Study,” was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. It examined a population of 5,500 retirees over an 18-year period at the Leisure World retirement home in Laguna Hill, California. According to researchers, 65 percent of participants who brushed less than one time per day were 65 percent more likely to develop dementia-related symptoms than those with more regular habits.

“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,” Annlia Paganini-Hill, one of the principal authors of the report, wrote in the article.

Researchers conducted the study between 1992 and 2010. Following the completion of the data-gathering period, the experts, after reviewing the information, found that after 18 years 1,145 of the subjects had developed dementia. Women seemed to be more susceptible to the illness than men, as those who brushed infrequently were 65 percent more likely to be diagnosed, whereas males with similar regimens experienced a 22 percent heightened risk of the disorder.

While the study only focuses on a relatively small population, the fact that the entire study group did not have dementia at the beginning highlights the significance of the results. To avoid the unnecessary risk of this debilitating mental illness, people both young and old should brush regularly and visit their family dentist every six months.