As if tooth loss isn’t bad enough, research recently published in Periodontology 2000 suggests that it could also be linked to lifespan. It would appear from the study that the more teeth you lose then the shorter your life expectation. They found that that people who had a full set of teeth at 74 had a significantly increased chance of reaching 100 years old.
Not necessarily a causal link
Association is not causation, and the link here isn’t generally causal in the sense that tooth loss in itself leads to an earlier death, although it can affect nutrition if it’s extensive and also gum disease can lead to more life-threatening conditions such as cardiovascular problems or lung diseases. Poor oral health is more than likely a signifier of general underlying health issues and an environment that is likely to lead to diabetes, heart disease etc. Stress, poor diet and other factors that affect tooth loss are also likely to lead to reduced life expectancy.
As Dr Nigel Carter OBE and CEO of the Oral Health Foundation said in a commentary on the study, “It is very evident that what is going on in our mouths can really be a useful window to our overall health. It is therefore vital that we take proper care of our mouth and pay close attention to what is happening as it could be a sign of something more serious.”
Keep to 3 simple rules to avoid tooth loss
Dr. Carter welcomes the research and encourages further work in the area, believing that it could become a way of detecting preventable diseases that otherwise show no early symptoms. As far as maintaining good oral health and reducing your chances of tooth loss, the Foundation says keeps it simple and urges people to follow three rules: go to the dentist regularly, eat less sugar and brush your teeth at least twice a day.