What can our teeth tell us about our overall health?

July 24th, 2017

Recent research, published in the Peridontology 2000, appears to suggest that our teeth, and their condition, can tell us a lot about our overall health. The research found that life expectancy can be predicted in direct relation to the number of teeth we retain. It was suggested that, if we still have all our original teeth at the age of 74, then we are more likely to reach the age of 100 years, or more. Therefore, the findings would seem to suggest that having healthy teeth can be indicative of having a healthy body.

Our teeth and mouths can be viewed as a sort of ‘snapshot’ of our overall health. Many medical conditions have early warning signs and symptoms that we might not easily recognise in symptoms elsewhere in our bodies. However, your dentist may pick up early on that something is not quite right with your teeth. These early investigations and referrals can lead to earlier diagnosis of certain conditions, and for treatment and advice being provided at an earlier stage.

The research looked at the number of teeth that had been lost, compared to the experiences and lifestyles of participants. They highlighted a number of ‘stressors’: factors which we all experience, but that might be experienced more positively or negatively by individuals. These ‘stressors’ included the emotional, economic, educational and social experiences people had, as well as their overall lifestyles: factors such as eating, drinking and sleeping habits, and how much exercise people took. The research found that the nature of the stressors experienced was linked to the overall tooth loss people had had. However, as well as linking tooth loss to the stressors, the research found a link to the likelihood of developing certain health conditions, many of which had the potential to limit life expectancy. Statistically speaking, losing five or more teeth by the age of 65 was associated with a high likelihood of suffering from another disease or illness.

In response to this study, the Oral Health Foundation noted the importance of being aware of our oral health, and being mindful of what it can tell us about our overall health. The charity encourages us to visit our dentist for regular check-ups, and in the event that we have any concerns or changes in our mouths. Examination by your dentist may help to identify any signs or symptoms that may be indicative of other health conditions which require treatment. Often these conditions might be visible much earlier in our mouths, than in other parts of our body.

The Oral Health Foundation provide three top tips for supporting our oral health:

  • Brush your teeth last thing at night, and on one other occasion during the day.
  • Avoid sugary food and drink as far as possible.
  • Ensure you visit your dentist regularly, in line with their recommendations.

For more information and advice, and for details of the research, please visit the Oral Health Foundation.

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