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Alzheimer’s Disease and Gum Disease: What’s the Connection?

Brushing your teeth keeps your mouth healthy and your breath fresh. But could it also protect your brain health? New research suggests there may be a link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

In one study, researchers looked at more than 9,000 people with chronic periodontitis—an inflammation of the tissue around the teeth. They compared them with 18,000 people who had healthy mouths. Over 10 years, those with gum disease had more than one and a half times the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

In another, scientists studied the brains of people who had died with Alzheimer’s disease. They discovered that the main bacteria responsible for gum disease was in their brain tissue.

From Mouth to Mind

Having gum disease could trigger inflammation throughout your body. And the bacteria linked to infections around your teeth doesn’t always stay put. It may travel to the brain and become involved in the complex series of events that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

The same bacteria has been known to migrate to other parts of the body, too. In fact, one study found that patients with heart disease have this bacteria in their arteries.

Aim for Good Oral Health

For all these reasons, it’s important to take care of your teeth and the rest of your mouth. Oral health and dental care matters from childhood. And it’s just as important as you age.

To keep your mouth healthy:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.

  • Floss once a day, and rinse afterward.

  • Limit sugary foods and drinks.

  • Avoid smoking and chewing tobacco.

  • Visit the dentist regularly—about every six months—for cleanings. Your dentist can also check for signs of gum disease and recommend treatment.

Warning signs of gum disease include bleeding as you brush, pain or swelling around your gums, and loose teeth. Check with your dentist or a periodontist if you develop any problems.

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