Everyone wants to look younger and we know that eating right and exercising regularly may help us. But have you ever thought about the fact that your mouth is the entryway to your overall health? Keeping that gateway clean and healthy may keep your whole body healthier longer – and looking younger.
“Just as white, straight teeth convey youth, a smile with crooked, discolored, worn, or missing teeth is associated with an aged look,” says Edmond Hewlett, DDS, professor of restorative dentistry at UCLA’s School of Dentistry. “The adage ‘long in the tooth,’ used to describe older persons, reflects the fact that gum disease causes gums to recede and teeth to appear longer as a result.”
So what will it take to keep a youthful mouth?
There are two simple, practical, and proven steps:
- Brush and floss daily
- See your dentist every six months.
“Taking the time to brush and floss is what’s needed,” says Anthony M. Iacopino, DMD, PhD, dean of the dentistry faculty at Canada’s University of Manitoba, professor of restorative dentistry, and an American Dental Association spokesman. “Brushing, flossing, and going to the dentist is so easy to do, it’s not expensive, and everyone should be doing it.”
What’s Stopping You?
“Folks don’t take [oral health] seriously,” says Samuel Low, DDS, MS, president of the American Academy of Periodontology and professor emeritus of periodontology at the University of Florida.
“They take their looks seriously and the smile is a priority, but people don’t think about their gums. Brushing takes time, and flossing is one of the most difficult habits. Only 25% of people floss and I don’t think people see the benefits,” says Low, who estimates that it takes two to three minutes per day to floss properly, but “these days, people are crunched for time.” Low is a stockholder in Florida Probe Corporation, a dental technology company.
There’s a lot more to our health than good looks. In fact, not carving out the time for dental care could adversely affect your health.
Periodontal Disease and Inflammation
When bacteria and debris, like bits of food, enter the blood vessels around the teeth, inflammation can occur. Inflammation is your body’s response to such invaders. If this happens repeatedly, you could wind up with long-term (chronic) inflammation.
“The mouth is one of the major contributors to high levels of inflammation”
“The mouth is one of the major contributors to high levels of inflammation in the body,” says Iacopino, who has consulted for Colgate and Johnson & Johnson.
Other chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease are linked to chronic inflammation. The inflammation may cause those diseases or it is a marker of some other cause. But either way, it’s not a good sign.
80% of Americans are affected by periodontal disease. Extensive bacterial buildup along the gums and teeth are its cause. The top cause of tooth loss is periodontal disease.
Bacterial buildup, inflammation, tooth decay, and periodontal disease happen quietly and slowly. People don’t even know it’s happening.
Brushing and flossing will reduce bacteria or plaque buildup. And that will help prevent inflammation and gum disease.