5 minutes per day seems to be a great tradeoff for living a longer healthier life. For most things in life “if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.” But read on to discover what researchers have found to be a key part of living a longer and healthier life.
The Journal of Aging Research recently published an article stating, “One of the simplest and cheapest secrets of a long life is taking care of your teeth and gums.” In a 17-year long study of 5,611 seniors, they found that not brushing your teeth at night boosted your risk for death by 20-35%, compared to brushing every night.
The Mayo Clinic calls the mouth a “window to your overall health.” As a dentist, we can often notice changes in people’s health simply by evaluating the health of their gums. The American Dental Association calls Periodontal (Gum) Disease “the silent killer of teeth.” The main challenge with gum disease is that it often doesn’t hurt until it’s too late, but there are often many warning signs that most people tend to ignore.
Let me ask you this; “If you were brushing your hair and your head started bleeding, would you be concerned?” That probably seems like a silly question, and of course you would be concerned. Now consider this; “If you brushed your teeth and noticed some bleeding, would you be concerned?”
Bleeding gums are caused by inflammation that is caused by bacteria. We all have bacteria in our mouth that is naturally occurring. There are two types of bacteria found in our mouths and in simplified terms, they “good bacteria” and “bad bacteria.” Like many things in life, they are in balance most of the time. When the “bad bacteria” start to take over, they cause inflammation in the tissue, which leads to bleeding and tender gums and later the loss of the bone surrounding our teeth, and even the loss of the teeth themselves.
The inflammatory bacteria found in our mouths have been linked to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, pancreatic cancer, respiratory infections, endocarditis and even Alzheimer’s disease. Research has also found that people with diabetes have a much harder time controlling their blood sugar levels when gum disease is present.
As you can clearly see, your oral health is intimately linked to your overall health. Keeping your mouth clean is like keeping your entire body clean. So that extra 5 minutes a day you spend brushing and flossing can really pay off with not only fresh breath and a great smile, but a longer life and who wouldn’t want that?
Your dentist can play a key role in advising you on how best to care for your mouth. For instance, did you know that “power tooth brushes” have been found to remove 40% more of the plaque and inflammatory bacteria than regular brushing? The brand of power tooth brush has not been shown to matter as much as simply using one. If you do want to use a regular brush, you will want to use one with “soft bristles” and a proper technique. Flossing is a huge benefit also and again, the brand or type doesn’t really matter as much as using it regularly. In our office, we have found that the oral irrigator by Oxyfresh has been a huge help in maintaining healthy tissue and a healthy clean feeling mouth. We also incorporate the use a laser for all routine dental cleanings, to help reduce the amount of bacteria below the gumline. Take care of your mouth, and you’ll be taking care of your body at the same time.
Jeff Gray DDS
La Mesa, CA