Press "Enter" to skip to content

The Surprising Link Between Alzheimer’s and Oral Health: 5 Ways to Reduce Your Risk

There are plenty of good reasons to practice good oral hygiene, but did you know that Alzheimer’s prevention was among them?

It’s true. Recent studies have found that porphyromonas gingivalis, the keystone pathogen in chronic periodontitis, may also play a significant role in the pathology of the disease. In fact, researchers discovered that this bacteria were present in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

“Almost 50 percent of every patient over 30 years old actually has some form of periodontal disease,” said Dr. Amanda M. Sheehan, DDS with Oakland Family Dental. “After the age of 65, almost 70% of patients have some form of periodontal disease. It’s far more prevalent, and far more undiscussed, than most people would like to think.”

With that in mind, it may be time to up your game regarding oral hygiene. But don’t worry if you aren’t sure where to begin. Dr. Sheehan says there are five simple changes you can make to rid your mouth of these potentially harmful bacteria.

Brush 2 Times 2: Twice a Day for Two Minutes Each

Dr. Sheehan recommends brushing your teeth for four minutes every day, which means that if you are doing it correctly, you will spend 1,460 minutes or 24.3 hours brushing your teeth every year.

“If those numbers are surprising to you, you are not alone,” Dr. Sheehan said. “In reality, the average person spends about 45-70 seconds brushing their teeth every day. Clearly, many of us could use a little sprucing up in the oral hygiene department, and increasing our daily brushing time is an excellent first step to achieving that goal.”

Use the Proper Brush and Technique

Of course, there is more to brushing than the time we spend on it every day. Dr. Sheehan says that, even if her patients brush their teeth long enough, they must also brush their teeth correctly.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends the following technique:

  • Use a soft-bristled brush held at a 45-degree angle to your gums.
  • Move the brush back and forth against your teeth, using short strokes.
  • Brush the outer, inner and chewing surfaces of the teeth.
  • Tilt the brush vertically to get the insides of the front teeth.

“You should also invest in a high-quality toothbrush,” said Dr. Sheehan. “I recommend a Waterpik toothbrush. They reach the tight areas between your teeth where tooth decay bacteria can accumulate and cause gum disease.”

Buy a Toothpaste with Fluoride

Brushing your teeth makes a difference, but a good toothpaste is essential to get the job done correctly. Toothpaste contains a mild abrasive for cleaning debris and stains from your teeth.

“Some brands may also include whitening agents, ingredients that fight plaque, and desensitizing agents, but fluoride is the most vital ingredient of all,” said Dr. Sheehan. “If you are not sure which toothpaste will be the best choice for you, you should look for the ADA’s seal of approval on the label.”

Flossing Removes Harmful Bacteria 

Whenever you eat, you risk getting food particles stuck between your teeth, which gives harmful bacteria a chance to take hold. These areas can develop plaque, a sticky film that consists of bacteria and can eat away the enamel of your teeth. When plaque isn’t removed, tarter can collect along your gums and cause gum disease.

According to Dr. Sheehan, your flossing technique matters just as much as your brushing technique.

“You want to make sure that you’re not transferring that bacteria to other areas in the mouth,” she said. “Make sure that you’re flossing and moving to a new piece of floss as you’re moving through your teeth.”

You should also avoid using tools other than dental floss to remove particles stuck between your teeth, especially items that are not explicitly made for dental care, added Dr. Sheehan.

“Just like flossing with the proper implements helps your mouth, flossing improperly can hurt you,” she said.

See Your Dentist for Regular Check-Ups and Cleaning

For your best chances at preventing gum disease and tooth decay, Dr. Sheehan stresses regular hygiene visits to your dentist for care and cleaning. Visits should include professional cleaning and a comprehensive check-up with the dentist.

“Dentists are able to irrigate underneath the gums to make sure that we’re flushing with antibiotics to kill that bacteria, so it doesn’t continue to spread to other parts of your body,” she said. “From an Alzheimer’s prevention standpoint, a dentist is your ally in that fight.”

Adding even one of these items to your regular oral care routine will help fight the bacteria that cause tooth decay and have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Still, you will get the most protection by incorporating all of them. Remember that a good oral hygiene routine will give you a beautiful smile, but more importantly, it will benefit your health far into the future.

About Dr. Amanda M. Sheehan

Dr. Amanda M. Sheehan is a Michigan-based highly-acclaimed dental physician who helps patients with their overall oral health, and gets them the smile that they’re looking for.  Dr. Sheehan is one of the few general dentists in the US and Canada that has achieved an Academy of General Dentistry Mastership. To learn more about her practice please visit: