What Your Gums Say About Your Health

By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Wellness

For years now, modern medicine has known about the strong influence that gum disease can have on the rest of your body. And yet, I’d venture to guess that many people still don’t realize how vital healthy teeth and gums really are. That’s why one recent study grabbed my attention. It pointed out that ignoring the health of your mouth could be far more serious than you ever imagined.

In the study, researchers from the State Univeristy of New York Medical School in Buffalo examined the gum health of 266 patients who were diagnosed with cancer of the head and neck along with 207 healthy controls. The doctors determined the presence of gum disease by measuring the amount of alveolar bone loss each patient had. Your alveolar bone is the thick bony structure that supports the teeth. What they found was truly astonishing! It turns out that, for each millimeter of alveolar bone lost, the subjects’ risk of developing cancer of the head and neck cancer was four times higher than those who hadn’t lost any bone. What’s worse, the link was independentof high-risk lifestyle factors like smoking or drinking.

Another study conducted at Imperial College London in the UK discovered that, compared to men with healthy gums, men with a history of gum disease had a 36 percent increased risk of lung cancer, a 49 percent hike in their risk of kidney cancer, and a 30 percent increased risk of white blood cell cancers. In addition, men who had fewer teeth at the beginning of the study had a 70 percent increased risk of developing lung cancer, compared with men who had 25 to 32 teeth.

Poor oral health can let bacteria enter your bloodstream, cause inflammation, and wreak havoc elsewhere in your body. In fact, there are over 100 systemic diseases linked to chronic periodontal disease and tooth decay.

The best defense against these tooth- and gum-related health problems is good oral hygiene. The first step is to brush your teeth twice a day with natural toothpaste. Proper brushing takes at least two minutes, but most of us don’t come close to brushing that long. Use a toothbrush with soft, nylon, round-ended bristles that will not scratch and irritate teeth or damage gums. Small-headed toothbrushes are also preferable, since they can better reach all areas of the mouth, including those hard-to-reach back teeth.

No matter how frequently you brush, the bacterial plaque remaining on your teeth can only be completely removed by thorough dental flossing at least once a day. However, it’s important to floss after brushing, not the other way around. Scientific studies show that you must brush your teeth before you floss to reduce the amount of bacteria that gets pushed into the gums while flossing. To floss properly, wrap a piece of dental floss into a “C” shape, then scrape both sides of each tooth to snare any hidden plaque. Move the floss up and down each tooth, not back and forth.

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Rinsing is also an important part of maintaining good oral health. But forget mouthwashes containing alcohol. Instead, opt for an herbal-based dental rinse or freshly brewed green tea. Drinking several cups of green tea each day can also promote better dental health. This was clearly shown during a survey of 940 middle-aged Japanese men. For every cup of green tea they drank, the researchers noted a decrease in probing depth, loose teeth and gum bleeding.

If you start practicing this three-pronged approach every day, you’ll be surprised how quickly gum and root inflammation can be reversed. You’ll not only end up with a brighter smile, you’ll substantially lower your risk of killer health problems like cancer and heart disease. And, that’s really something to smile about!


References:

Fitzpatrick SG. The Association Between Periodontal Disease and Cancer: A Review of the Literature. Journal of Dentistry. 2009 Nov 3. [Epub ahead of print]

Kushiyama M. Relationship between intake of green tea and periodontal disease. Journal of Periodontology. 2009;80:372-377.

Tezal M. Chronic Periodontitis and the Incidence of Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. 2009; 18:2406-2412.

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