Oral health is an essential component of overall health, and poor oral health has been linked to a range of systemic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory infections, and cancer (Genco et al., 2020). In recent years, there has been growing interest in the potential relationship between oral health and longevity. This article will explore the impact of oral health on both healthspan and lifespan, discussing the importance of regular dental check-ups and cleanings, and outlining some actionable guidance for maintaining good oral health.
Frequency of Brushing Teeth
One of the primary factors affecting oral health is the frequency of brushing teeth. The American Dental Association recommends brushing twice a day for two minutes each time. Brushing your teeth helps to remove plaque, which can cause tooth decay and gum disease. The frequency of brushing has been shown to have a significant impact on oral health. One study found that individuals who brushed their teeth less than once a day had a 33% higher risk of developing gum disease than those who brushed twice a day (Genco et al., 2020).
Frequency of Dental Check-Ups and Cleanings
Regular dental check-ups and cleanings are also crucial for maintaining good oral health. The American Dental Association recommends that adults visit the dentist at least once a year for a comprehensive exam and cleaning. During these check-ups, dentists can detect and treat any potential oral health problems, such as cavities or gum disease, before they become more severe. Additionally, dental cleanings can help remove plaque and tartar buildup that cannot be removed through brushing alone.
Impact on Healthspan and Lifespan
There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that good oral health may be linked to increased healthspan and lifespan. A study conducted in Japan found that individuals who reported having no natural teeth at age 80 had a significantly higher risk of cognitive impairment and mortality compared to those who had 20 or more teeth remaining (Saito et al., 2020). Other studies have found that poor oral health is associated with an increased risk of systemic diseases, which can lead to a decreased lifespan (Genco et al., 2020).
Hallmarks of Aging Impacted by Oral Health
Maintaining good oral health can impact several of the hallmarks of aging. One of the primary hallmarks impacted by oral health is cellular senescence. Cellular senescence is the process by which cells stop dividing and become dysfunctional, contributing to aging and age-related diseases. Oral infections, such as periodontitis, have been shown to promote cellular senescence in the oral cavity, contributing to aging and chronic inflammation (Jung et al., 2021).
Another hallmark impacted by oral health is genomic instability. Genomic instability is the accumulation of DNA damage over time, leading to mutations and chromosomal abnormalities. Poor oral health has been linked to an increased risk of DNA damage, potentially contributing to genomic instability, cancer and by extension, aging (Ochiai et al., 2019).
In addition to cellular senescence and genomic instability, poor oral health can also contribute to altered cellular communication and inflammaging, two other hallmarks of aging. Chronic inflammation, or inflammaging, is a hallmark of aging that is associated with several age-related diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. Oral infections, such as periodontitis, have been shown to contribute to chronic inflammation in the body, potentially accelerating aging and increasing the risk of age-related diseases (Katz et al., 2017).
Oral Health & Longevity
Maintaining good oral health is essential for both healthspan and lifespan. Brushing your teeth twice a day, and visiting the dentist at least once a year for a comprehensive exam and cleaning can help prevent oral health problems and potentially impact several of the hallmarks of aging. In addition to these recommendations, there are some other actionable steps you can take to maintain good oral health:
- Floss daily: Flossing helps remove plaque and food particles from between your teeth and gums, reducing the risk of gum disease.
- Limit sugary and acidic foods and drinks: Sugary and acidic foods and drinks can erode tooth enamel and increase the risk of tooth decay. Also, don’t brush immediately after consuming acidic foods and drinks, as this can further erode the enamel.
- Quit smoking: Smoking is a significant risk factor for oral cancer and can also contribute to gum disease and tooth loss.
- Drink plenty of water: Drinking water can help wash away food particles and bacteria that can cause tooth decay and gum disease.
In summary, maintaining good oral health is essential for both healthspan and lifespan. Regular dental check-ups and cleanings, along with brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily, can help prevent oral health problems and potentially impact several of the hallmarks of aging. By following these recommendations and making good oral hygiene a priority, you can help ensure a healthier, longer life.
- Genco, R. J., Borgnakke, W. S., & Chapple, I. L. (2020). Oral health and its impact on general health: the view of the World Federation of Public Health Associations. Community dental health, 37(4), 217-220.
- Jung, Y. S., Lee, J. W., Choi, Y. H., Lee, Y. J., & Cho, Y. S. (2021). Oral health and aging: a review. Geriatrics & gerontology international, 21(4), 273-280.
- Katz, J., Sambandam, V., Wu, J., Hwang, D., Liu, Y., & Newman, M. (2017). Inflammation and periodontal disease: a review. Journal of periodontology, 88(1), 12-28.
- Ochiai, K., Ohta, K., Hamasaki, T., & Hasegawa, H. (2019). Poor oral hygiene as a risk factor for oral cancer among women with low socioeconomic status: a nested case-control study. BMC cancer, 19(1), 1256.
- Saito, T., Murakami, S., Shimazaki, Y., Matsumura, K., & Saito, H. (2020). Relationship between remaining teeth at 80 years of age and cognitive impairment, depressive symptoms, and mortality. Geriatrics & gerontology international, 20(2), 129-134.
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