There are many great things in life, and we all want to have time to enjoy them. Well, it turns out that one of the smartest things you can do to try to give yourself that time is to take care of your teeth. That’s because a new study highlights the link between gum disease, tooth loss, and an increased risk of early death.

Fortunately, a holistic dentistry approach strives to take care of your overall health as well as your oral health.

Close up of gum disease

A Large Study Carried out for Years

This study is notable partly because it was published in the prestigious Journal of the American Heart Association. The study caught the attention of the JAHA partly because it’s one of the largest studies ever carried out to look at this question. It includes about 57000 postmenopausal women who were observed for twelve years or more. About five years into the study, in 2003, doctors assessed the health of these women in many ways, including gum disease and tooth loss. The women included in this study were the ones who didn’t have heart disease at the time.

In 2010, researchers stopped collecting data on these women. Over the course of the study, 3816 women died, and there were 3586 reported cardiovascular events.Researchers compiled, collated, and analyzed the data, looking at the potential association between gum disease, tooth loss, and death.

Associated Risks

Researchers determined that gum disease was associated with a 12% higher risk of death. Complete loss of teeth was initially associated with a much higher risk–42% higher risk of cardiovascular disease and a 47% higher risk of death. After correcting for multiple statistical factors, it was determined that tooth loss was associated with a 17% higher risk of death.

However, this study didn’t show any statistically significant link between gum disease, tooth loss, and heart disease.

What Links Tooth Loss and Death Risk?

It’s important to remember that, as strong as studies like this make the case for a link, they can’t tell us that there’s a causal connection between tooth loss and death risk. To establish that takes different kinds of studies that demonstrate a mechanism that could lead from one of the other.

Typically, we talk about the link between gum disease and heart disease, but this study doesn’t confirm that link. But if it’s not heart disease, what is it?

Well, there are several potential links here. First, we can look at chronic systemic inflammation. When you have a chronic infection like gum disease, the immune system is driven to remain active for much longer than it should. You develop side effects related to the heightened immune state–inflammation–that can damage your body. Inflammation has been linked to both dementia risk and cancer risk.

But there’s also the simple fact that if your teeth are in bad shape or are missing, it’s harder for you to eat healthy, nutritious foods. Lean meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are all vital for your body’s continued health, but they’re all hard to eat when you have unhealthy teeth or missing teeth. Instead, you tend to eat an increased proportion of processed foods high in fat, sugar, and salt.

Act Now to Avoid These Risks

So what can you do to try to avoid these potential health problems? The simplest and most effective way is prevention. Take good care of your teeth and they will take care of you. Brush twice a day, floss every day, and see your dentist every six months.

But what if you have already lost all your teeth? Then it’s time to talk replacement options. Traditional dentures can work, but they can also be loose, which makes it hard to eat. Poorly fitting dentures have even been associated with an increased risk of oral cancer. FOY ® Dentures are a good alternative to traditional dentures. Even better is dental implant dentures, which can essentially restore your teeth to full function so you can keep eating all the healthy foods you currently enjoy.

Do you want to learn more about how your oral health can help protect your overall health? Please call (408) 354-5600 today for an appointment with San Jose dentist Dr. Nancy Nehawandian at Top Down Dental in Los Gatos.