We’ve all been taught to take care of ourselves physically, and we know what to avoid: tobacco, aerosol spray cans, rush hour traffic, and any foods found at the State Fair. But that is only half the battle. Sometimes we focus so much on what not to do that we forget about the things we should be doing.
It’s these health “sins of omission” (things like failing to exercise regularly, cutting back on nighttime sleep, or forgetting to floss every day) that get us into the real trouble.
I know what you’re thinking…is forgetting to floss really on the same level as eating a bucket-full of unhealthy foods? Yes. No one disputes that poor eating habits can indeed shorten your life…but let’s set the record straight about oral health and its effect on our longevity.
Failing to brush, floss, and get regular dental check-ups and cleanings can (and almost always does) lead to gingivitis and more severe periodontal disease. Just by itself, periodontal disease is not good. It comes with a variety of symptoms including bleeding, bad breath, loose teeth, or even tooth loss. But those symptoms pale in comparison to the overall health concerns that accompany this gum disease.
The bacteria that infect the mouth as a result of periodontitis can often spread throughout the body at a rapid pace. The inflammation found in the gums can also trigger inflammation responses in other parts of the body, including the heart.
In fact, according to the American Academy of Periodontology, people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease (also called heart disease). In addition, recent studies have shown that periodontitis is linked to diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and even pre-term birth.
There is little doubt that the effects of periodontal disease extend well beyond “simply” losing some teeth. It does indeed shorten your life.
But here’s the good news: you don’t have to let gum disease get far enough to threaten your life span. Simple treatment, including regular brushing, flossing, and professional cleanings can all but guarantee your oral (and overall) health. If you do have periodontal disease, medications and surgeries are available to stop or minimize the damage.
So put down the deep fried Twinkie, put on your running shoes, and go for a nice little jog. But before you go, take a few minutes to brush and floss. Your life may depend on it!