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Can Good Oral Health Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

It is becoming increasingly obvious that good oral health is an integral part of good overall health. Studies conducted over the past several years have shown a connection between gum health and a variety of serious conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. But an even more surprising discovery is that avoiding gum disease, in addition to other healthy habits, can help people to either avoid developing Alzheimer’s disease altogether or at the very least delay the onset of symptoms.

Research shows that even though a family history of the condition may increase the likelihood of a person developing Alzheimer’s, it is still possible to reduce that risk by engaging in healthy habits on a day-to-day basis. Some of those include eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, and practicing a thorough oral hygiene routine.

Recent studies have found that people who develop periodontal disease early in life are four times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease later on. The connection appears to be inflammation. The inflammatory nature of gum disease may also destroy brain cells. In addition to practicing a daily routine of at-home oral hygiene, it’s also vital that people visit their dentists at least twice a year for regular exams and professional cleanings. No matter how diligent you are in brushing and flossing on your own, you’ll never be able to remove all the tartar that builds up on teeth over time. But routine cleanings by a dental professional will remove that buildup and reduce the risk of developing gum disease. Your dentist will also be able to detect periodontal disease in its very early stages and recommend effective ways to treat the condition before it progresses.

Although it’s sobering news to realize that Alzheimer’s disease impacts an alarmingly high percentage of our aging population, it’s heartening to know that each of us can take steps to reduce our chances of developing the condition. You can start by eating a healthy, plant-based diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables, along with lean protein. Avoid using tobacco and don’t drink alcohol to excess. Remember the importance of exercise. And don’t forget the connection between gum health and Alzheimer’s disease. Be sure to brush and floss twice a day, and visit your dentist routinely for professional exams and cleanings. Medical researchers have yet to develop an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s, but we can still take steps to either delay the onset of the disease or avoid it altogether.