What does your mouth have to tell you about your brain health? Surprisingly, quite a bit, according to Steven Lin, D.D.S., author of The Dental Diet. While the causes of Alzheimer’s aren’t completely clear, one contributing factor may be a lack of oxygen to the brain, says Lin. “The early signals of the brain’s lack of oxygen can be picked up in your mouth, including bleeding gums and periodontal disease,” he notes. “Bleeding gums are also a sign of digestive inflammation, and we can draw a direct line from the mouth [gingivitis] to inflammatory signals to the brain.”

Oral health problems like upper-airway resistance can also cause sleep apnea, which has its own direct link to Alzheimer’s, adds Lin. Sleep apnea, which involves pauses in breathing throughout the sleep cycle, may starve the brain of oxygen and damage the parts that manage blood pressure, balance, and memory. Your best bet, according to Lin: Focus on maintaining a healthy diet to reduce inflammation and seek treatment for poor sleep and sleep disorders to curb your overall risk.