With new research, it is becoming clear that there is a direct link between the health of our mouths and the health of the rest of our body, including risk of certain chronic illnesses. Ryan Demmer, associate professor in the division of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, showed in a recent study published in Neurology that individuals with gum disease in their midlife were more likely to experience cognitive decline over the next 20 years of their lives. Why is this? Our mouths have 700 different kinds of bacteria, at least, some of which can lead to certain diseases and infections like gum disease. While it isn’t fully understood how gum disease may cause or contribute to cognitive decline, we do know that “gum disease precedes other chronic conditions” so more research is needed to understand if poor oral hygiene can actually cause cognitive decline.