Can Healthy Gums Help You Live Longer?
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It’s no secret that healthy gums are essential to fresh breath and a brilliant smile. But what about clear arteries, a strong heart, a sharp brain, and balanced blood sugar? Believe it or not, all of these longevity markers can be traced right back to your mouth… and trouble in periodontal paradise could actually be a smoking gun for several other health concerns.
That’s because imbalanced inflammatory responses in your gums directly activate inflammatory signaling molecules like NF-kappaB, which can have wide-ranging effects on brain health, liver health, kidney health, and especially heart health.1-2 Studies have shown that the administration of oral bacteria to animals affects gene expression in the aorta, while altering lipid development and initiating changes in the blood vessel lining—all of which amounts to a notable negative impact on circulatory health and cholesterol profiles.3
Research also demonstrates that oral bacteria can interfere with platelet function and artery flexibility, with a number of human studies confirming this negative link.4-6 Case control studies have revealed a 30 percent increase in heart health concerns among subjects with poor dental health—with reports indicating that the connection between gum health and heart health remains strong, even after adjustments for other key cardiovascular factors, such as cholesterol, blood pressure, and BMI.7-9
It appears that these ties carry over to cognitive performance as well: experiments on mammalian neurons show that exposure to common oral bacteria can reduce the neurons' function, while triggering an imbalanced inflammatory response that leads to abnormal protein deposits in the brain.10 And these inflammatory imbalances are only made worse by poor glycemic control, as receptors formed from imbalanced blood sugar metabolism contribute to further periodontal aggravation.11
Ultimately, your longevity hinges on a healthy mouth—so if brushing and flossing just don’t seem to be doing the trick, it’s time to look beyond your bathroom sink for some help.
Hyaluronic acid (HA) lozenges are a good place to start. HA is a high molecular weight polysacharride that has been shown to balance inflammatory responses and support periodontal health.12 Trials indicate that application of HA to unhealthy gums results in significant improvements in gum health.13
Periodontal application of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) may also be helpful, with small trials showing that it can promote optimal gum health within several weeks of topical use.14 This may be attributable to the fact that subjects with poor oral health also tend toward significantly lower CoQ10 levels—not to mention CoQ10’s ability to enhance salivary excretion when routinely taken in either one of its popular forms (ubiquinol or ubiquinone).15-16
Finally, the safe, natural sweetener xylitol also delivers clinically-supported benefits to your gums by increasing saliva flow and fighting oral bacteria.17-20
1. Rial NS, Choi K, Nguyen T, Snyder B, Slepian MJ. Nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB): A novel cause for diabetes, coronary artery disease and cancer initiation and promotion? Med Hypotheses. 2011 Oct 17. Published Online Ahead of Print.
2. Tomofuji T, Ekuni D, Irie K, Azuma T, Tamaki N, Maruyama T, Yamamoto T, Watanabe T, Morita M. Relationships between periodontal inflammation, lipid peroxide and oxidative damage of multiple organs in rats. Biomed Res. 2011;32(5):343-9.
3. Maekawa T, Takahashi N, Tabeta K, Aoki Y, Miyashita H, Miyauchi S, Miyazawa H, Nakajima T, Yamazaki K. Chronic oral infection with Porphyromonas gingivalis accelerates atheroma formation by shifting the lipid profile. PLoS One. 2011;6(5):e20240.
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18. Söderling E, Hirvonen A, Karjalainen S, Fontana M, Catt D, Seppä L. The effect of xylitol on the composition of the oral flora: a pilot study. Eur J Dent. 2011 Jan;5(1):24-31.
19. Milgrom P, Ly KA, Tut OK, Mancl L, Roberts MC, Briand K, Gancio MJ. Xylitol pediatric topical oral syrup to prevent dental caries: a double-blind randomized clinical trial on efficacy. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009;163:601-607.
20. Seki M, Karakama F, Kawato T, Tanaka H, Saeki Y, Yamashita Y. Effect of xylitol gum on the level of oral mutans streptococci of preschoolers: block-randomised trial. Int Dent J. 2011 Oct;61(5):274-80.