Loose Women: Dr Hilary discusses how to live longer
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Of all the questions life throws up, why some people live longer than others is one of the most interesting. Naturally, the answer is multifaceted, but research suggests your body holds some clues as to whether you’ll make it into the centenarian club. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, oral health may be a predictor.
Researchers sought to determine whether oral health is better in centenarians than in their offspring and a matched control group.
Researchers recruited 73 centenarians and their 467 offspring from New England, and the offspring cohort was matched with 251 controls.
A self-report questionnaire was administered to measure oral health in all three groups, with “edentulous rate” as the primary outcome measure.
Edentulous simply refers to a lack of teeth; an edentulous space is an area of the mouth that no longer has (or was always missing) teeth.
The researchers gathered information on sociodemographic characteristics and the medical history available on all the participants.
Centenarian results were compared with their offspring results.
Data from offspring and a matched control group were analysed to determine differences in oral health and associations between oral health measures and specific medical conditions.
So, what did the researchers find out?
Interestingly, the edentulous rate of centenarians (36.5 percent) was lower than that of their birth cohort (46 percent) when they were aged 65 to 74 in 1971 to 1974.
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However, adjusting for confounding factors, the control group was more likely to be edentulous, less likely to have all or more than half of their own teeth, and less likely to report excellent or very good oral health than the centenarian offspring.
This suggested to the researchers that “centenarians and their offspring have better oral health than their respective birth cohorts”.
They concluded: “Oral health may prove to be a helpful marker for systemic health and healthy aging.”
It’s worth noting that the study did not explore why this might be the case or whether there is any causal association.
The results are not surprising because poor oral health has been associated with a host of chronic diseases.
For example, studies suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with a severe form of gum disease (periodontitis) might play a role in some diseases.
According to the Mayo Clinic, your oral health might contribute to various diseases and conditions, including cardiovascular disease.
Although the connection is not fully understood, some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
This association is significant because heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide.
Other linked conditions include:
How to look after oral health
According to the NHS, you should brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
You should also have a healthy lifestyle, including eating well, not smoking and limiting your alcohol and sugar intake.
“It’s good for your whole body, including your teeth, gums and mouth,” explains the NHS.
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