The conversations of life

Can the number of teeth you have predict when you will die? A new study says yes

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Your teeth, it turns out, are a window into your health.

Research published in Periodontology 2000 showed that those who have a full set of teeth aged 74 are more likely to reach 100.

However people who had lost five or more teeth by the age of 65 were also more likely to suffer from some serious health issues, most of which will lead to an earlier death. They include cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.

Loss of teeth is more common than you think. In the US, the average American has lost a third of their teeth by the age of 60. By 85 years, almost 40 per cent have no teeth at all.

Ageing a major impact on oral health

Why does this happen? Diet and not flossing are major factors but getting ‘old’ is also a major factor. US ageing commentator Dr Atul Gawande tells us that while white enamel is the hardest substance in the human body it still wears over many years.

Also, the blood supply to the pulp and roots of our teeth atrophies and the flow of our saliva diminishes. Our gums can become inflamed and pull away from the teeth exposing them and making them unstable and ‘elongated’ in appearance.

Dr Larry Benge of Australia’s Malo Clinic, on our radio show, told us there is no reason not to have good teeth into our 90’s – if we look after them by preferably flossing twice a day but at least once, AND having a dental check every six months to keep them healthy and identify problems early.

Sounds like a good investment to me if it either saves my teeth or gives me an early warning to other health problems!

By the way, if you have private health insurance, check it. I discovered recently at the dentist that my insurer had drastically reduced my dental cover. I didn’t know this until I went to pay – and then it was too late! No doubt buried in the small print. That cost $400 extra.

You can check out the podcast of our full interview with Dr Larry Benge below:

Dr Larry Benge, The Malo Clinic – 05.03.17

Christopher Baynes

Chris Baynes is a columnist and publisher of Frank & Earnest. He is also the publisher of Villages.com.au, the leading national directory of retirement villages and aged care services in Australia.


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