Americans are living longer than ever, and we all want to do it. We especially want to extend our years of active, productive, healthy living so that we can enjoy every year to its full extent.
There are many things you might be doing to improve your odds of living longer. This includes getting exercise, eating right, drinking in moderation only, and quitting smoking. But if you’re not taking care of your teeth, you’re missing one of the most important steps.
The Science of Mortality and Tooth Loss
There have been many studies that have linked tooth loss to a higher risk of death at a younger age. The most recent and perhaps the most dramatic study demonstrating this link was published last year. It looked at the relationship between the number of teeth and 5-year mortality among 70-year-olds. Looking at 600 subjects, they found that those with 20 teeth or more had a mortality rate of 2.5%, while those with 19 or fewer teeth had a mortality rate of 6.1%–more than twice as high! They were further able to analyze the data and determine that each tooth you have in your mouth at the age of 70 reduces your 5-year mortality risk by 4%.
So what’s responsible for this risk? Usually, it’s considered that gum disease is the important mediating factor. Gum disease has been linked to heart disease (partly indicated by a link to tooth loss), stroke, and diabetes. It’s been linked to several types of cancer, and it’s been linked to the risk of death in chronic kidney disease patients. Virtually every system in the body is negatively impacted by gum disease.
But teeth themselves have an important role to play in maintaining your health and promoting longevity. Tooth loss has been linked to dementia. Some of this is, again, likely due to gum disease, but there are also indications that being able to chew food promotes mental health. And the number of teeth you have is directly related to your fitness level. Teeth perform an important role in stabilizing your head and neck (and therefore your body core). When you have fewer teeth, you lose the ability to maintain an active lifestyle, which can lead to less exercise, reduced body muscle mass, and the attendant health problems that come with a sedentary lifestyle.
Does Dental Care Really Improve Your Life Expectancy?
Yes! At least, that’s the conclusion of a 2013 study that looked at over 21,000 people age 65 and older. These people were surveyed to determine their oral health status and their oral health care habits, then mortality data was collected for the four years following the survey.
This study confirmed that the more teeth you had, the lower your mortality risk. But it also showed that people who practiced all three types of dental care in the survey (tooth brushing, regular dental visits, wearing a denture) had a 46% lower mortality risk than those who practiced none of the three!
So now you’ve got a good formula to help promote a longer, healthier life: brush your teeth, visit the dentist, and wear a denture if you have missing teeth.
Make sure to brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes. And don’t forget to floss. Flossing removes food debris and dental plaque from between your teeth to prevent decay and gum disease.Regular dental visits are crucial to help maintain your oral health and prevent disease that can degrade your systemic health. Make sure to maintain dental visits even if you no longer have teeth.
When it comes to dentures, you want dentures that replace all the vital functions of your teeth. This includes replacing supportive occlusion, which is often best with neuromuscular dentures like FOY ® Dentures or implant dentures like All-on-4.