Reconnecting Practicing Hygienists with the Nation's Leading Educators and Researchers.

Raising Awareness 

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of mortality among the top 10 that cannot be prevented, cured, or slowed.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of mortality among the top 10 that cannot be prevented, cured, or slowed.1 Chances are you know someone with Alzheimer’s disease or someone who has been impacted by it. Imagine how frustrating it must be not to remember how to tie your shoes or use a computer. What if you couldn’t remember the name of your best friend or where you left your wallet? And it must be sheer terror not to know where you are or how you got there. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, such dramatic symptoms are not evident and individuals can typically carry on with daily activities. At some point, however, the disease becomes debilitating. In honor of November being National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month, let’s learn more about this irreversible brain disease:

  • Approximately 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women.
  • By 2025, the number of Americans age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is estimatedto reach 7.1 million.1

The tragedy of Alzheimer’s affects more than just those with the disease. Consider these facts about those who care for the ones afflicted:

  • Friends and family of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease provided an estimated17.9 billion hours of unpaid care in 2014.
  • Two-thirds of those caring for people with Alzheimer’s are women.
  • Forty-one percent of caregivers have a household income of $50,000 or less.1

Even though the statistics sound dire, there is hope. Currently, there are five US Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs that treat Alzheimer’s symptoms. And while they don’t address the underlying causes, new drugs being studied may have an impact. A “cocktail” of medications may be able to target the plaques, tangles, inflammation, and insulin resistance associated with Alzheimer’s disease.1

To learn more about the relationship between Alzheimer’s disease and oral health, read the continuing education feature “Understanding the Correlation” by Karen M. Portillo, RDH-EA, MS, and Courtney P. Rudick, RDH-EA, MS, CHES. Dental hygienists play an important role in helping individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as providing support to family/caregivers for maintaining oral health.

The lives of patients and caregivers impacted by Alzheimer’s disease are overwhelmed by this devastating illness, and both deserve our empathy and support. In the US, someone develops Alzheimer’s every 67 seconds. And another person likely bears the burdens associated with it. Let’s not forget either.

 Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
     Editor in Chief
  [email protected]


  1. Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s Disease. Available at: AccessedOctober 9, 2015.


From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. November 2015;13(11):10.


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