Everyone knows that good oral hygiene helps to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and bad oral health generally; but recent research has suggested that keeping your teeth clean can prevent other diseases as well. Here are some of the health benefits of cleaning your teeth that you may not have known about.
Heart disease In 2010, researchers at University College London (reported on the NHS website) showed that people who did not brush their teeth were 70 per cent more likely to develop heart disease. This is in line with other research that suggests a link between gum disease and heart disease. One theory is that bacteria in the mouth can find its way into the bloodstream and lead to heart trouble.
Dementia There is research that suggests that teeth cleaning and regular visits to the dentist can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and that the risk of dementia increases among men who wear dentures and have few teeth left. It is not clear what could have caused this link, but it may be that dental health leads to a healthy mind as well as a healthy body.
Cancer There is a possibility that good oral hygiene can help prevent oesophageal cancer, a cancer of the tube that takes food from the mouth to the stomach. Patients with more of a certain type of bacteria in their mouths were more likely to develop this cancer, and it is suggested that keeping the teeth healthy can reduce this bacteria.
Respiratory diseases The bacteria that cause respiratory diseases may be present in plaque and can easily be inhaled and transferred to the lungs. It seems that elderly people may be particularly susceptible to this kind of infection and that it could cause or worsen diseases such as bronchitis, asthma and even COPD.
Kidney disease Research has also suggested a link between gum disease and renal insufficiency — a condition that leads to a decrease in kidney function and can ultimately lead to kidney failure.
Much of this research is still in the early stages and should not be taken as proven. Other factors may be involved, and further research is needed. More and more, however, doctors are starting to suspect that a good teeth-cleaning regime, including brushing and flossing twice a day, will not only keep your teeth and gums healthy and your breath fresh, it could also save your life.