People with long term gum disease are more likely to develop dementia, researchers have found. Scientists believe that inflammation caused by years of mouth problems could eventually damage the brain.

Although the study of 20,000 people could not prove that gum disease directly caused Alzheimer’s, experts believe that proper tooth-brushing could be advised to ward off dementia if further research confirmed the link.

Previous studies have found that dementia patients with gum disease tend to get worse quicker but, unlike the new research, were unable to determine which condition came first. In the latest study, carried out by Taiwanese researchers, it looked at 9,300 patients with a recent diagnosis of chronic periodonititis, a common gum disease, comparing them with 18,700 others who were followed over more than a decade.

Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Foundation said, “the good news is that gum disease is an entirely preventable and treatable disease. Avoiding gum disease can be as simple as brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, using interdental brushes daily and regular visits to the dentist.”