Healthy Gums for a Longer Life

Here’s a reason for those who don’t floss to start: you might live longer.

By Lola Augustine Brown


If you floss every day and take care of your oral health, you may be rewarded with more than a nice smile into your old age. According to study results reported in the Journal of the American Heart Association, better oral health means a better chance of living longer.

The study followed 57,001 US women aged 55 to 89 enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study over a follow-up period of almost seven years. Post-menopausal women who had lost teeth and had periodontal (gum) disease had a 46% higher incidence of dying from any cause than those who’d kept their teeth and had no gum disease.

Women who were toothless but did not have periodontal disease had a 12% greater incidence of death from any cause, and those who had their teeth but also had periodontal disease were at an 11 per cent greater risk.

Researchers took into consideration factors such as age, ethnicity, education level, smoking, BMI, physical activity, and history of diabetes. Although the study looked at women only—because menopause is known to have a negative effect on oral health and because women are expected to outnumber men two to one among adults 65-plus—these findings suggest that better dental care to improve the condition of gums in the general population could save lives. Researchers suggested that screening for gum disease in mid-life could be as important as screening for high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

With that in mind, is it time to book an appointment with your dental hygienist?


Photo: iStock/zimmytws (floss and brush).

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