MORGANTOWN, Va., June 24 (UPI) -- Brushing teeth and flossing may not only reduce gum disease and stroke but memory loss, U.S. researchers suggest.
In an ongoing study, researchers at West Virginia University in Morgantown gave oral exams, memory tests and, if subjects agreed, a blood test to 270 people age 70 or older in more than a dozen West Virginia counties.
The researchers found about 23 percent of the group suffers from mild to moderate memory loss.
"We're looking for markers in the blood that show inflammation to see if there is a link to memory problems," one study researcher, Dr. Richard Crout, said in a statement.
It is not yet understood whether mouth microorganisms create health problems or whether the body's inflammatory response is to blame. Crout said it may be a combination.
However, the connection between severe dementia and gum disease is already well-known, although clinicians often do not realize gum disease affects memory, Crout said.
"Older people might want to know there's more reason to keep their mouths clean -- to brush and floss -- than ever," Crout said in a statement. "You'll not only be more likely to keep your teeth, but you'll also reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and memory loss."