You may do all you can to protect against heart disease, cancer, and other deadly health conditions, but you may be overlooking one of the most important factors – your mouth, a top expert says.
Research has long shown a link between gum disease (known also as periodontitis) and heart problems isn’t new, but recent studies have linked poor dental health to a higher risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease as well.
“Heart disease, stroke, and other deadly diseases can begin in the mouth, but this this connection is overlooked, even by health practitioners as well,” Dr. Mark Breiner tells Newsmax Health.
Most Americans have some form of gum disease, statistics show.
Periodontal diseases range from simple gum inflammation (gingivitis) to a severe condition that can result in major damage to the soft tissue and bone, leading sometimes to tooth loss.
But these diseases also result in chronic bodily inflammation, which is increasingly being identified as a component in host of ailments, says Breiner, a dentist in Fairfield, Conn., and author of “Whole-Body Dentistry: A Complete Guide to Understanding the Impact of Dentistry on Total Health.”
Sheila Wolf, an author and dental hygienist, who has worked in this field for more than four decades, agrees.
“More and more research is attributing disease throughout the body to inflammation, so if you have this problem in your mouth, it will affect the rest of your body as well,” says Wolf, author of “Your Mouth May Be Killing You,” and other books.
While Breiner and Wolf agree that, while there is no proof that gum disease causes these major ailments, numerous studies show people who have it are more likely to develop these conditions and this connection is too often overlooked, even by health professionals.
Here’s a rundown:
- Diabetes: It’s known that people who have diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease, but research also finds that, in diabetics, gum disease can make their condition worse.
- Heart disease: Inflammation sets the stage for the formation of fatty deposits known as plaque in the heart’s blood vessels. Plaque rupture can result in a heart attack-causing blood clot, or, in the brain, lead to stroke.
- Cancer: In August, a study showed older women with gum disease face triple the risk of developing esophageal cancer, and, to a lesser degree, a higher chance of developing breast, lung, and gallbladder cancer, as well as melanoma.
- Alzheimer’s disease: In a recent study of people over the age of 50, a Taiwanese research team found that those who had periodontitis for more than 10 years were 70 percent more likely to Alzheimer’s disease.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Studies find that tooth loss – a marker for periodontal disease – may predict whether a person has rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which is an inflammatory disease. The more teeth lost, the greater the risk of RA, one study found.
- Pregnancy problems: Women with periodontal disease are at greater risk of giving birth prematurely or to low birth weight babies.
The best tool for cleaning your teeth is your toothbrush. Here are Wolf’s tips on making sure yours is in top condition:
- You can clean and sterilize your toothbrush by running it through the dishwasher.
- Don’t rest your toothbrushes on a counter or in a medicine chest, keep them standing in a holder, uncovered, so they can air dry.
- Have a couple of toothbrushes on hand, so you can alternate and use one while the other one is drying.
- If you have a cold or you’re sick, replace your toothbrush as soon as you’re better.
- What you put on your toothbrush is important. Instead of toothpaste, Wolf uses a mixture of baking soda, sea salt, and hydrogen peroxide.
- Don’t overlook brushing your tongue; bacteria hide there too.
Here are Breiner’s tips on how to keep your gums healthy:
- Brush your teeth thoroughly after every meal and rinse your mouth with a mouthwash that contains essential oils.
- Floss your teeth preferably after every meal or at least before you to go bed.
- Use a water irrigator, such as WaterPik, daily to flush out the gums. (Irrigation is Wolf’s top tip as well).
- Chew Xylitol gum.
- Massage your gums to increase the blood flow.
- Cut down on refined sugar and carbohydrates.
- Get your teeth cleaned regularly. The frequency can vary between people from a few months to a year, so follow your dentist’s recommendations.
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