By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
Researchers throughout the world have long been aware of a connection between oral health and overall health. One reason is that gum disease can spread infection and inflammation to other parts of the body, including the cardiovascular system. Another independent risk factor, according to multiple studies, is the number of natural teeth you have. Below 20 has been linked to cardiovascular disease, pneumonia, malnutrition, poor quality of life, and mortality.
In one study from a Brazilian dental school, having 20 or less natural teeth was found to be a significant and independent risk factor for early death. The study was based on 500 patients who were followed for nearly eight years.
In a Scottish study of nearly thirteen thousand adults in a health database, having no teeth was found to be an independent predictor of death was cardiovascular causes, and particularly from stroke.
And in a study from researchers at UCLA and USC, the risk of earlier death among older adults from a variety of causes was increased with an increasing number of missed teeth. For example, no natural teeth increased the risk by 30 percent. The researchers added that toothbrushing before bedtime, daily flossing, and seeing a dentist regularly helped promote survival even in the face of many missing teeth.
My Viewpoint: In my cardiology practice I often used to see patients with missing and loose teeth, bleeding gums, and foul breath − all signs of gum disease. To me, gum disease as an infectious, inflammatory condition was seemingly capable of spreading problems throughout the body. Missing teeth are typically preceded by gum infections. The research, while not establishing a direct cause and effect, clearly shows a real connection between oral health, heart health, and overall health.
What This Means to You: Humans get 32 teeth to chew with. Do what you can to preserve them.
My Recommendation: In an interview years ago with a professor at a prestigious dental school, I learned that perhaps the best way to protect your teeth and stave off dental carries and gum disease – and thus preserve your teeth – was to brush after every meal with baking soda. It kills the bacterial. Let the baking soda sit on the teeth for a moment, and then take a capful apple cider vinegar and swish it around your mouth. That’s an effective antibacterial 1-2 punch. First the alkaline baking soda, followed by the acidic vinegar. When you add the vinegar you’ll get an invigorating “poof” in your mouth. Make an effort to do it after each meal.
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