People in the UK are now living longer than ever before. A study into the changing life expectancy over time in England Wales conducted by the Office for national Statistics shows that life expectancy at birth is almost double what it was in 1841. Many dietary and lifestyle decisions can help to extend a person’s life expectancy. Avoiding smoking plays an essential role, but it might come as a surprise that oral hygiene is also strongly linked to life expectancy.
Oral health indicators such as gum disease have regularly been linked to a wide range of general health problems such as heart disease
A study, published in the Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology journal, investigated the link between tooth loss and mortality.
It revealed the number of teeth a person has is significantly correlated to their life expectancy.
Results found those with 20 teeth or more at the age of 70 had a considerably higher chance of living longer than those with less than 20 teeth.
According to Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of oral health charity the British Dental Health Foundation, a healthy mouth is a useful barometer for the overall health of the body.
He explained: “Oral health indicators such as gum disease have regularly been linked to a wide range of general health problems such as heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, dementia and problems during pregnancy.
“Many oral health diseases (such as gum disease) are entirely preventable and are caused by poor oral hygiene. By taking good care of our teeth, not only will our mouth benefit but the positive changes will be felt by the entire body.”
According to the medical body Mayo Clinic, oral health may contribute to various diseases and conditions, including:
This infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers or valves (endocardium) typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to certain areas in your heart.
Although the connection is not fully understood, some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
Pregnancy and birth complications
Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
Certain bacteria in your mouth can be pulled into your lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.
The medical site also suggests certain conditions could pose a risk to your oral health, including:
By reducing the body’s resistance to infection, diabetes puts your gums at risk. Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes.
Research shows that people who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels. Regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control.
Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
This bone-weakening disease is linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss. Certain drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a small risk of damage to the bones of the jaw.
Worsening oral health is seen as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.
A healthy mouth can help to reduce the deterioration of our health when we get older, says Dr Carter.
According to the NHS, the following tips are essential to keeping health teeth:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss between your teeth using floss or use an interdental brush every day to remove food, debris and plaque lodged between your teeth.
- Cut down on sugar and have a healthy lifestyle, including eating well, not smoking and limiting your alcohol. It’s good for the whole body, including teeth, gums and mouth.
- Brush baby teeth as soon as they come through.
- Get children into a teeth-cleaning routine.
- Straighten crooked teeth with braces.
- Have regular dental check-ups with your dentist – if problems aren’t treated, they may lead to damage that’s harder, or even impossible, to repair.
There are a wide range of dental treatments available. Some, such as fillings and root canal treatment, are readily available on the NHS. Others, such as cosmetic dentistry, are only available on the NHS in certain circumstances.
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