How maintaining oral hygiene can improve longevity


In the pursuit of longevity and overall health, we often focus on diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits. However, there is an often overlooked aspect that plays a crucial role in our health: the oral microbiome. Our mouths contain a complex ecosystem of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that affect not only oral health, but our entire body. Understanding and caring for this microbial community may be the key to a long and healthy life.

The connection between mouth and body
The mouth is not an isolated compartment. Bacteria are constantly migrating from the mouth to other parts of the body through the bloodstream. An imbalance in the oral microbiome can trigger chronic inflammation, which is the root cause of many diseases. Research shows a link between poor oral health and conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and even Alzheimer’s disease.

  • If patients with type 2 diabetes develop good oral habits, such as flossing or cleaning between teeth, blood sugar levels tend to be lower and diabetes can be better controlled.
  • The bacteria that cause gum inflammation can actually enter the bloodstream and target the fetus, increasing the risk of premature babies sixfold.
  • There is a strong link between gum disease and heart problems – when you have gum disease, bacteria living in your mouth can enter your bloodstream and infect your heart valves, and the risk is greater when cholesterol levels increase.
  • Oral Health Impacts Gut Health — People with gum disease often have an imbalanced oral microbiome, and when these disease-causing harmful bacteria enter the bloodstream, they can reach the stomach (gastrointestinal tract) and disrupt the balance of the gut microbiome and lining Intestinal.

Beyond gum disease
Traditionally, oral health concerns have focused on tooth decay and gum disease (gingivitis and periodontitis). While these are still crucial, the impact of the oral microbiome goes far beyond that. Studies have linked it to respiratory disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and even some cancers. Maintaining a healthy oral microbiome may reduce the risk of these diseases.

The power of good bacteria: Not all oral bacteria are created equal. Some “good” bacteria play a vital role in maintaining oral health. They help break down food particles, produce beneficial compounds, and even fight harmful bacteria. A balanced microbiome ensures the proliferation of these beneficial bacteria while inhibiting the proliferation of harmful bacteria.

The impact of modern lifestyle

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Our fast-paced lives often lead to unhealthy habits that disrupt the oral microbiome. Sugary foods, excessive alcohol consumption, mouth breathing, and smoking habits can all contribute to the overgrowth of harmful bacteria.

Take control of your oral microbiome
Here are some key strategies for cultivating a healthy oral microbiome:

  • Brush and floss: It is recommended to brush your teeth twice a day, after breakfast and dinner, and floss once in the evening. While these practices are still important, the focus should be on gentle and thorough cleaning to effectively remove plaque and prevent bacterial buildup.
  • Diet: Limit sugary foods and refined carbohydrates, which can harbor harmful bacteria. Choose a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Probiotics: Consider adding a probiotic supplement or yogurt. While research into their effects on the oral microbiome is ongoing, some studies suggest they can be beneficial.
  • Regular dental checkups: Adults should schedule a dental checkup and cleaning every 6 months. Children should have a dental checkup every 3 months. Your child's first dental exam should occur after the first baby tooth erupts or before his first birthday. Your dentist can evaluate your oral health, identify potential problems early, and recommend personalized strategies.

Oral microbiome research is an emerging field with exciting possibilities. Scientists are exploring the potential of prebiotics (food for good bacteria) and phages (viruses that target specific bad bacteria) to further promote a healthy oral ecosystem.

Taking care of your oral microbiome is more than just a great smile; It's an investment in your overall health and longevity. By using these simple strategies, you can cultivate this hidden world in your mouth and open the door to a healthier life.

(Author: Dr. Amrita Gogia, Senior Consultant and Head, Department of Dental Sciences, Medanta, Gurgaon)



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