There is one more way to increase the longevity of your life besides the common platitudes to stop smoking, lose weight, eat more fruits and vegetables, and exercise. An often overlooked and under publicized tip to a healthier body is to keep your teeth clean. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, reports that 80 percent of all adults have some degree of periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is linked to or is a potential risk factor for those with damaged heart valves, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease and behavioral and psychosocial conditions according to The American Academy of Periodontology, which has been reviewing the data. It is the most pervasive infectious disease on earth.
The cause of this insidious disease stems from the plaque-producing bacteria, found among the almost 500 species of bacteria in the mouth. The bacteria that cause periodontal disease live in the absence of air, like it warm, dark and acidic. They provide the furry feeling on teeth upon awakening. The acidic bio-film forms a sticky, water resistant shield around the tooth, called plaque. Water alone (swishing or oral irrigating) cannot penetrate this grease barrier to remove plaque. In addition, gums act like a gasket around the tooth, further preventing air or water to reach the “air hating” bacteria along the gum line, making cleaning especially difficult.
Restorations, crowns, bridges, orthodontic appliances, wisdom teeth, implants, periodontal disease, or not flossing, will sustain dangerous levels of bacteria even after brushing. Bacteria (good or bad) reproduce exponentially every hour. This means that if you start off with a bacteria population of 1x (1x being the amount of bacteria in your mouth after a professional cleaning – which you can’t achieve in the home), after one hour you have double the population of bacteria, and after two hours you have 4x, then 8x, 16x, etc. Poor cleaning in a few areas will leave heavy concentrations of plaque that can repopulate other areas of the oral cavity. You may start with a bacteria population of 10,000x and in a few hours bacteria will quickly race out of control.
To reduce the plaque-producing bacteria in the mouth, one must a) break through the sticky shield with an abrasive, b) cleanse the site, c) aerate the site, and d) neutralize the acid. Normal cleaning methods, like brushing and flossing, have a difficult time accessing the sites between the teeth or can’t break through the sticky film, don’t aerate those sites, and don’t neutralize the acid.
The American Dental Society reports that only 5% of the population floss their teeth. Drawbacks to flossing are possible gum lacerations and the floss can act as a contaminant bringing infection from one tooth to the other. Flossing does not aerate the site nor neutralize the acid.
Tooth brushing is over aggressive on the cheek-side surfaces of teeth causing toothbrush abrasion and ridges along the gum line, resulting in sensitivity to hot and cold, while still not accessing in between the teeth. Tooth brushing also does not aerate the sites to change the environment.
It’s not easy to keep the population of bacteria in the mouth low and your teeth really clean. Meticulous routine twice daily cleaning is necessary. Professional cleanings at least twice a year assist in this task. The effort it takes will facilitate your overall health. There is lots of evidence suggesting that one way to live longer is to clean your teeth better.