Your dentist has been nagging you to brush twice a day and floss daily for as long as you can remember — and while those habits, along with regular cleanings, are key components to keeping your teeth and gums healthy, it turns out that how well you take care of your mouth could actually affect your entire body.
“Your mouth is the gateway to your body — and it’s not a very pristine gateway,” Deepak Chopra wrote on the topic. “It’s filled with bacteria — in fact, there are more bacteria living in your mouth than there are people on earth.”
In the past month alone, two new studies have come out about the surprising effects of poor oral care on the body as a whole. So we rounded up just a handful of the research out there on this mouth-body connection. Here are a few reasons of why brushing up on oral hygiene may help to keep the rest of your body in shape:
Reduced Risk Of Premature Birth
A new study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found an association between the use of a non-alcohol antimicrobial mouth rinse in pregnant women and a decreased rate of delivering babies prematurely.
Analyzing 226 women with periodontal disease, the researchers found that study participants who rinsed twice-daily with the mouthwash were about three fourths as likely to deliver early, reports Reuters.
While the study didn’t look to find the reason for the difference, lead author Marjorie Jeffcoat of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine told Reuters that one theory is that gum-disease-induced inflammation could trigger early birth.
Increased Risk Of Heart Problems
Some research has connected periodontal disease (or inflammation and infection in the tissue around the teeth) to heart problems.
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, “Researchers have found that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without periodontal disease.”
“If you have gum disease or cuts in your gums from dental work, oral bacteria can enter your bloodstream and cause infection in your heart or lungs,” Deepak Chopra wrote. “Poor oral health probably won’t give you heart disease or other diseases. But if you already have risk factors for certain diseases, it can increase your chances of getting them.”
Increased Risk Of Dementia
A study published in October 2007’s Journal of the American Dental Associationfound a relationship between people who lost more teeth before the age of 35 and an increased risk of dementia.
“Our findings suggest that a low number of teeth has an association with dementia late in life,” the researchers wrote in their conclusion section of the study, pointing out, of course, that while they had found a correlation, they don’t know at this point if tooth loss actually causes dementia.
Link To Diabetes
In a preliminary 2007 study among rats, researchers found a possible link between periodontal disease and a progression toward diabetes among rats who were already prediabetic. While the results, published online in the Journal of Periodontology, are still early, they suggest one more possible reason to keep up with a brushing and flossing routine.
Link To Healthier Lungs
Another study published in The Journal of Periodontology uncovered a suspected link between periodontal disease and pulmonary disease, such as pneumonia and acute bronchitis.
“By working with your dentist or periodontist, you may actually be able to prevent or diminish the progression of harmful diseases such as pneumonia or COPD,” Donald S. Clem, DDS, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, said in an organization press release. “This study provides yet another example of how periodontal health plays a role in keeping other systems of the body healthy.”