Did you know that behind your beautiful smile lies millions of bacteria, good and bad? Did you know that the bad stuff can affect how long we live, the ageing process and what diseases we suffer from? Most of us can err on the side of apathy when it comes to brushing our teeth (20 seconds instead of 2 minutes), maybe a token flossing session once a week and treating ourselves with sugary foods. My dentist once told me, just floss the teeth you want to keep!
Letting your teeth and gums deteriorate, especially gum disease can have wider health implications. In Andrew Steele’s recently published book, Ageless, which we highly recommend, he discusses that your dental health can have an affect on your lifespan as well as your risk of dementia and now there is a possible link with Alzheimers too. Research in the 80’s and 90’s showed that people with tooth decay and gum problems were more likely to develop heart disease as they got older. It was originally thought there could be a correlation between poorer people having less time and money to spend taking care of their teeth and those who were wealthier taking more care overall of their health. The conclusion was adamant in that people who brushed twice a day were at a lower risk of heart attack than those who brushed only once. Also more frequent brushers had less inflammation.
In addition (bad) bacteria in the mouth can also have an effect on diabetes. We are learning that chronic inflammation, leading to some of the ‘older age’ diseases links the gut with the mouth. An article in the Economist this week details a recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) which included sessions on the links between microbes in mouths, the intestines and chronic disease. Dr Chapple who was head of dentistry at Birmingham University chaired the discussions around the connection between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis. RA involves the immune system attacking the body’s joints. The theory describes bacteria hitchhiking a ride from the mouth to the rest of the body via an enormous supply of blood vessels. In addition high glucose levels disrupt the body’s inflammatory system leading to many complications including gum disease. The potentially life changing link between gum health and Alzheimers will be thoroughly tested in a trial that will take place at the end of next year.
So, as we are all constantly being told by our dentists, keep brushing your teeth twice a day and don’t forget to floss between them for a longer and healthier life. Smile wide and bright everyone!