11 Dental Care Tips to Boost Brain Health

The picture shows a family brushing their teeth together

There is growing evidence that poor oral health is linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Keep your mouth healthy with these tips from June Sadowsky, DDS, a professor at UTHealth School of Dentistry in Houston.

Brush your teeth properly. You should brush your teeth twice a day – in the morning and at night before going to bed. It’s best to use an electric toothbrush and let it clean each tooth. Dr. Sadowski advises her patients to brush their teeth for as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Avoid vigorous back and forth movements, which may damage the enamel.

Floss regularly. Floss at least once a day or every time you brush your teeth. Some people find it easier to clean between teeth using a soft toothpick rather than flossing. Dr. Sadowsky does not recommend using a water pick. They can remove food particles but not plaque, which contains the bacteria that cause gum disease and cavities, she said.

Consider mouthwash. Mouthwash leaves your mouth feeling fresh and smelling fresh. Your dentist may recommend a specific type of mouthwash based on the condition of your mouth.

Ask about fluoride. Many public water systems are fluoridated to help prevent tooth decay. As an extra measure, your dentist may recommend brushing or rinsing with fluoride-containing products.

Eat crunchy foods. The chewing motion when eating crunchy products like raw carrots and apples is important for oral health, and research shows it may also help maintain cognitive function.

Limit sweets. Sugar promotes tooth decay. Don't suck on hard candies or mints. If you need cough drops, try sugar-free brands.

Drink lots of water. Reduce sugary and acidic drinks (such as orange juice and coffee), which can corrode enamel, and drink more water.

Avoid smoking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smokers are at increased risk for tooth decay, gum problems, and tooth loss. If you smoke, ask your doctor or neurologist about programs to help people quit smoking.

Schedule an inspection. Visit your dentist at least twice a year to check for cavities and gum disease. If you are prone to plaque buildup or have a history of gum problems, see your doctor more frequently.

Keep your dentist informed. Tell your dentist if you are taking new medications or have a new medical diagnosis. Report problems such as dry mouth or difficulty swallowing.

Solve the problem. If a tooth is broken, have it repaired or replaced as soon as possible. If you wear dentures, make sure they fit correctly.

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