Most of us know that some of the same habits that cause tooth decay — say, eating deep-fried sugar cubes dipped in chocolate — can also lead to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but could what happens to your teeth actually cause these health problems? A few recent studies posed that question and come up with some interesting results.
One study published in The Journal of Dental Research sought to determine whether obesity is in fact a disease caused by oral bacteria. Boosting this seemingly crazy theory is the fact that researchers found that more than 98% of the overweight test subjects had a high level of a particular bacterial species (Selenomonas noxia) in their saliva. The results don’t signify for sure that the bacteria caused the obesity, but there is at least a correlation between the two. It could be that the bacteria increases as people gain weight, or perhaps the presence of the bacteria is an indicator that certain people are highly susceptible to weight gain and should probably hit the gym, stat.
Another study linked teeth — or the lack thereof — to a range of ailments. Carried out at Uppsala University in Sweden, the study examined people with chronic heart disease and discovered that a quarter of them experienced bleeding gums and more than half of them had fewer than 15 teeth. (For the math-challenged out there, that’s less than half of a standard adult set of 32.) Furthermore, the fewer the teeth a subject had, the more there was of a specific enzyme that causes hardening of the arteries, and the greater the incidence of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and obesity — all of which could lead to heart disease, diabetes and other health problems. Again, though, the study couldn’t say for certain that tooth and gum disease actually cause cardiovascular health issues.
If that’s not reason enough to take good care of your teeth, another study in Australia found that women with gum disease took an average of two months longer to get pregnant that women with healthy gums. Researchers were unsure of the reason for this but hypothesized that it possibly has to do with inflammation in the mouth affecting the rest of the body, including the reproductive system.
So, although the reasoning isn’t necessarily clear, one thing is: breaking out your toothbrushes, your dental floss and your mouthwash might just save more than your teeth.
(Sources: The Journal of Dental Research, The Daily Mail, Huffington Post)