Oral health is an integral part of healthy lifestyle habits related to aging. This is important for preventing possible teeth issues, but also for our diet, our social life and a large number of health problems. In fact, several recent studies have made links between the presence of infections within the gums and the increased risk of certain diseases.
According to a 2016 study by the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec, almost half of Quebec seniors 65 and over have no natural teeth in their mouths, and three-quarters have dentures. A fraction of these people, especially those who are totally toothless, abstain from eating certain foods, because of the loss of their chewing power which is inevitable with a partial or complete prosthesis. Unfortunately, this has a direct impact on the quality of their diet and therefore on their overall health.
However, the number of seniors who have retained their natural teeth should continue to increase over the next decades. This is explained by the fact that the population is increasingly aware of the importance of good oral health and also by the significant advances in dentistry which currently offers very high quality care.
But the mouth is not just a gateway to food; it is also the gateway for billions of bacteria that will end up in our bloodstream very quickly. This is even more serious if the gums are inflamed and bleed easily. As mentioned earlier, several studies today demonstrate links between gum disease and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s and lung disease. There may even be a link with the risk of prostate cancer.
For example, for Alzheimer’s, a recent study has just confirmed its link with gum damage. This study, recently commented on by the journal, Science et Avenir (https://www.sciencesetavenir.fr/sante/cerveau-et-psy/alzheimer-la-piste-des-bacteries-buccales-se-confirme_131070), demonstrates that Toxic proteins from pathogenic oral bacteria are found specifically in the brains of people affected by Alzheimer’s disease. These proteins have thus become a new target for the treatment against the disease, but above all, prevention is still essential. In addition to the usual healthy oral habits, it would be very important to have your teeth professionally cleaned, at least every 6 months. The descaling carried out eliminates the colonies of bacteria which are establishing themselves, which prevents the proliferation of Porphyromonas gingivalis; bacteria producing the toxic proteins involved which are called gingipains.
Fortunately, dentists today are very aware of the challenges of gum disease and offer solutions to these problems at any age. Prevention remains the best way to age well with a healthy mouth, and our actions today determine the state in which our mouth will be in 10, 15 or 20 years. Here are some recommendations:
- be sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day, every day,
- replace your toothbrush every 3 or 4 months,
- use dental floss every day,
- the use of toothpaste with a high fluoride content is desirable to reduce the risk of root cavities,
- if you have prostheses, total or partial, their cleanliness is very important to prevent them from constantly contaminating your mouth,
- quit smoking (if applicable),
- eat a balanced diet,
- check with your pharmacist and dentist about the possible side effects of the medications you are taking, related to your oral health.
The best strategy is to visit your dentist regularly and make sure you get the best treatments to make sure your teeth and gums are healthy for life.
– Jamil El Kabbaj, DMD, dentist
- Da Silva APB, Alluri LSC, Bissada NF, Gupta S. 2019. Association between oral pathogens and prostate cancer: building the relationship. Am J Clin Exp Urol. 2019 Feb 18;7(1):1-10.
- Stephen S. Dominy, Casey Lynch, Florian Ermini, Malgorzata Benedyk, Agata Marczyk, Andrei Konradi, Mai Nguyen, Ursula Haditsch, Debasish Raha, Christina Griffin, Leslie J. Holsinger, Shirin Arastu-Kapur, Samer Kaba, Alexander Lee, Mark I. Ryder, Barbara Potempa, Piotr Mydel, Annelie Hellvard, Karina Adamowicz, Hatice Hasturk, Glenn D. Walker, Eric C. Reynolds, Richard L. M. Faull, Maurice A. Curtis, Mike Dragunow and Jan Potempa. Porphyromonas gingivalis in Alzheimer’s disease brains: Evidence for disease causation and treatment with small-molecule inhibitors. Science Advances 23 Jan 2019: Vol. 5, no. 1.
- Bélanger R, Blanchet C et D. Hamel. 2016. La santé buccodentaire des aînés québécois. Collection Vieillissement en santé. Institut national de santé publique du Québec. Québec. 21 p.