We are all taking steps to live longer, healthier lives. But if you’re not taking care of your teeth, you could be missing out on one of the most important steps. We understand that the link might not be immediately obvious, but it’s there, and it’s strong — people who take good care of their teeth have a much lower mortality rate than those who neglect oral hygiene.
Science Strongly Supports Longevity Benefits
Because there’s a lot of interest in helping people live longer, there have been many studies focused on the longevity benefits (or detriments) of many different lifestyle choices, including taking care of your teeth.
One study puts these in very stark terms: people with 19 or fewer teeth have twice the five-year mortality risk as those with 20 or more teeth. This 2015 study looked at 559 subjects age 70 at the beginning of the study. Then they checked back with study subjects five years later, at which point 4.4% of subjects had died. However, only 2.5% of subjects with 20 or more teeth died, compared to 6.1% of those with 19 or fewer teeth. Analyzing the data, they found that each additional tooth at age 70 was associated with a 4% increase in your five-year survival chance.
A larger study from 2010 that looked at a wider age range (from 20 to 89) and followed people for 12 years found similar results. They found that the number of teeth a person has is associated with their risk of all-cause mortality (death from any cause), and their risk of death from cardiovascular disorders like coronary heart disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure.
So the evidence suggests there’s an association, but is there a causal link?
Again, the evidence supports a causal link, mostly through gum disease. Gum disease has been linked to many deadly health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and several types of cancer.
But teeth themselves help you keep healthy. For example, the number of teeth you have influences how fit you are. And if you have fewer teeth, you are more likely to be homebound, especially if you don’t wear dentures.
Does Dental Care Really Improve Your Life Expectancy?
So we’ve seen that your teeth are related to your life expectancy, but perhaps that could be attributed to other factors like genetics, snacking habits, and previous health conditions — not your dental care. Is there anything showing that taking care of your teeth actually extends your life?
There is at least one large, high-quality study. This study was published in 2013, and looked at over 21,000 Japanese individuals age 65 and over. In a four-year follow-up, they confirmed that the number of teeth a person has is directly related to mortality risk: the more teeth, the lower the risk.
They also confirmed that people with 19 or fewer teeth reduced their mortality risk if they performed all three aspects of good oral health care: tooth brushing, regular dental visits, and wearing dentures. In fact, if they followed all three types of care, they cut their mortality risk essentially in half!
Not Just Living Longer, Living Better
It’s also important for us to note that people with more teeth live better lives as they age, not just longer ones. With more teeth, you are better able to remain active and remain social. You’ll be freer to enjoy the things you love as you get older.
If you are looking for a dentist in Columbus that can help you enjoy a longer and better life, please call today for an appointment with Dr. Mike Firouzian.