Want to know how long you will live, count your number of teeth
Dr. Niveditha Navin
When we think about living longer, healthier lives, oral health rarely comes to mind. We all understand the importance of a healthy heart, brain, lungs, for longevity, but what about a healthier mouth? What does oral health have to do with our overall health? The answer may lie in how many teeth you have.
A new study on tooth loss and mortality shows that the number of teeth we have is significantly correlated to our life expectancy. Many factors contribute to tooth loss, including poor oral hygiene, trauma, smoking, health status, and socio-economic factors. Oral frailty, or decreased oral function, is linked to a decline in mental and physical functions, and may contribute to diseases involving the heart, lungs, and brain.
Tooth loss impairs quality-of-life and nutritional status, as your food choices depend on the ability to chew your food. Your pearly whites also impact your speech, and facial changes occur due to missing teeth leading to self-consciousness, and a lower self confidence.
Take Care Of Your Mouth To Take Care Of Your Health
Like other areas of the body, your mouth hosts a variety of bacteria — mostly harmless. However, oral infections potentially become the entry point for harmful bacteria. If these pathogens multiply, they may enter your digestive and respiratory system, and cause diseases.
Poor oral health can cause:
- Toxicity and inflammation- Tooth decay can cause inflammation leading to increased bacteria causing toxicity in the mouth, which can enter your bloodstream and travel to your heart, and also causing a life threatening condition called sepsis impairing blood flow to all vital organs such as your heart, brain and kidneys. Amalgam fillings may affect oral health, as they gradually release mercury vapor in small amounts every time you chew or drink something hot. These vapors can bind to your brain and kidneys, causing mercury toxicity that leads to brain fog. If possible, replace your amalgam fillings with safer options, such as composite or ceramic fillings.
- Heart disease - A study from the Journal of the American Heart Association found that the inflammation caused by gum disease can lead to an increased risk of heart disease. Frequent oral infections increases your risk of heart diseases by 2.7 times. Moreover, when bacteria travels from the mouth to the lungs, they can lead to pneumonia and increase the risk of emphysema.
- Lowered Fertility - with poor oral health you may have trouble conceiving and also increased risk to preterm birth and low birth weight in newborns.
- Poor Memory - Pathogenic bacteria, along with inflammatory molecules can travel from infections in your mouth, to the brain, and may be a factor in memory loss and dementia.
- Headaches & Neck pain - your chronic headaches, neck pain, jaw pain, and fatigue may be due to teeth grinding. As teeth are worn down from regular grinding, chewing becomes more difficult, which affects your overall health.
Best Practices For Oral Health
It is important to keep your mouth “young”. Do this by:
- Brush and floss twice daily
- Tongue scraping
- Get a mouth guard if you grind your teeth
- Regular dental check ups
- Visit your dentist to get your old silver amalgam fillings changed to ceramic or composite fillings
Keeping your teeth and gums healthy today may not only add years to your life, but ensure that you will be able to feast on all the foods you enjoy well into your golden years!
About Dr. Niveditha Navin
Dr. Navin is a clinical research specialist, who holds a degree in dentistry. After completing her postgraduate diploma in clinical research, she has experience working as a clinical affairs specialist in the pharmaceutical industry. She is passionate about medicine and wishes to carve a distinct niche in the field of research.
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- HIROTOMI T (2015) ‘Number of teeth and 5-year mortality in an elderly population', Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology 2015; 43; 226-231