New research sheds light on the correlation between tooth loss and an early death, it has been announced. According to a study carried out by the Oral Health Foundation, losing five teeth by the age of 65 could be a sign of dying early.
Physical stress and poor health often manifests in the mouth before anywhere else in the body, hinting at conditions that may become apparent later on. A direct link between the retention of teeth and a number of serious conditions has now been established. These include cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.
The study, published in Periodontology 2000, discovered that people with a full set of teeth at the age of 74 are more likely to live to see their 100th birthday than those with gaps. Bacteria in the mouth can cause problems in other parts of the body if it gets into the blood stream and blocks coronary arteries.
Dr Nigel Carter, of the Oral Health Foundation, said: “There are many reasons why somebody can lose their teeth, it could be down to trauma, smoking or just a continued poor oral health routine. But it can also be related to gum disease which is closely linked to health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
“What this piece of research suggests is that tooth loss can often be a signifier of a poor quality of other areas of a person’s lifestyle and therefore a higher likelihood of someone having health issues because of this.”
He added that the mouth is a window into the overall health of an individual and should therefore be taken good care of. Close attention should also be paid to this part of the body, as it could be a sign of a more significant affliction.
In the wake of the research, the Oral Health Foundation is reminding people of the importance of visiting the dentist regularly. It also advises against excessive sugar intake, which can have a negative impact on oral health.
Dr Carter pointed out that tooth loss comes with problems of its own, including issues with eating, which put ongoing nutrition at risk, and even difficulty communicating. He said he hoped there would be more studies into tooth loss in the future, which could shed extra light on the links to overall health.
Keeping the teeth clean and well-maintained is important throughout life and it is important that the elderly have people on hand who can help them to do this. Those with decreased memory should have their oral hygiene monitored and all older people who have teeth cleaning supplies to hand.