missing tooth

Gum Disease, Tooth Loss & Systemic Illness

missing toothEverybody knows British teeth are horrible, nothing like bright, shiny American smiles.

And according to a paper recently published in BMJ, everybody is a little bit wrong.

In some ways, American teeth are actually worse. For one, we have more missing teeth. And this may have some serious consequences for overall health.

For instance, there’s the study we told you about last time, which showed an association between tooth loss and type 2 diabetes.

The study, published in Preventing Chronic Disease, examined tooth-loss trends from more than 37,000 people using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted between 1971 and 2012. Researchers found tooth loss was prevalent in type 2 diabetics, and even more so among African Americans despite an overall decline in the past 40 years.

The main reason most people lose teeth? Periodontal disease. And diabetes is far from the only systemic health problem linked with it.

In fact, just after the diabetes study came out, another showed a similar relationship between tooth loss and heart health. Analyzing data from more than 15,000 patients with cardiovascular issues, the authors found that

every increase in five levels of greater tooth loss predicted a 6% increased risk of the primary outcome—a major adverse cardiovascular event (MACE), a composite of cardiovascular death, nonfatal MI [myocardial infarction, or “heart attack”], and nonfatal stroke. However, when researchers looked deeper, every worse level of tooth loss was associated with a 17% increase in risk of cardiovascular death and a 14% increase in stroke…. [emphasis added]

Those with no teeth at all had a 27% higher risk of a MACE and almost double the risk of death of those who had all their teeth.

Oh, but that won’t happen to me, you might think.

Some perspective: 3 of every 4 Americans has some degree of gum disease, according to the American Academy of Periodontology. That’s 75% of the population.

More perspective: According to the CDC, half of all American adults over 30 have the most advanced form of gum disease, periodontitis.

So maybe it’s no surprise that by the age of 64, the mean number of permanent teeth falls to right around 22 – 10 teeth fewer than the full complement. Even allowing for the removal of wisdom teeth, that’s still a net loss of 6 teeth through one’s prime.

And nearly 4% of adults between 20 and 64 have no teeth at all.

Fortunately, there are plenty of therapies that can help right the proverbial ship, including dental ozone and LANAP laser therapy, which not only disinfects but may even stimulate regeneration of supporting bone tissue. Nutritional and homeopathic therapies can lend further support, as can ramped up home hygiene, including oil pulling as a daily part of your daily routine.

Taking good care of your gums and ensuring their health is an important part of taking care of your overall health. And taking care of your overall health helps take care of your gums.

That’s the big picture – how everything is connected.

Image by Jenni Konrad, via Flickr