If you are hoping to have a long and happy retirement, there’s no time like the present to start taking care of your teeth. That’s because a new study has reaffirmed the strong connection between oral health and overall health. This time, the study shows that both gum disease and tooth loss are associated with an increased risk of early death.
A Large Study Carried out for Years
One thing that makes this study highly important is that it’s one of the largest studies of its kind that’s been carried out yet. It includes 57001 postmenopausal women who were enrolled in 1993-1998. About year five of the study (2003), women were assessed for periodontal disease, tooth loss, and other factors. At this time, all women included in the study were free of cardiovascular disease.
These women were followed until September 2010, at which point all the data was compiled and analyzed. Over the study period there were 3586 cardiovascular disease events and 3816 deaths. Researchers looked at how the deaths were related to gum disease and tooth loss.
Initial analysis showed that gum disease was associated with a 12% higher death risk, although it wasn’t associated with cardiovascular disease. Complete loss of teeth–edentulism–was initially associated with a 42% increased risk of cardiovascular disease and a 47% higher risk of death. After adding in more factors for statistical adjustment, only the association between edentulism and early death remained, showing a 17% higher risk.
What’s the Link?
Studies like this show a simple association, but they don’t necessarily show that there’s a causal association. For that we need to ask whether there’s a plausible mechanism by which gum disease and tooth loss could lead to death.
Normally, we’d talk about the potential link between gum disease and heart disease, but with the results of this study showing no connection in that area, it doesn’t seem like that would be valid. This is the Journal of the American Heart Association, and it seems like the AHA has been resisting acknowledging a link between gum disease and heart disease. Nonetheless, let’s put that link aside and look for others.
One of the most important effects of gum disease is chronic systemic inflammation. This immune system response to infection can damage your body. It’s been linked to dementia risk and to cancer. Those two risks alone probably account for a large portion of the risk related to gum disease.
With edentulism, it’s likely the potential loss of a nutritious and varied diet. Without teeth, it’s a lot harder to eat a diet that includes nutritious fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. You’re more likely to rely on processed foods of all types for the bulk of your diet.
How to Avoid These Risks
So what can you do to protect yourself from these serious consequences of gum disease and tooth loss? First, see your dentist. Prevention is a lot easier than cure when it comes to these problems. Keeping your teeth and gums healthy will help you stay healthy. But if you do have gum disease and want to get it treated, we have a periodontist who can help eliminate gum disease and help you keep your teeth.
If you’ve lost your teeth, it’s best not to rely on traditional dentures. Instead, implant dentures will give you back close to your full chewing force and allow you to keep eating a healthy, nutritious diet.