There are many lifestyle modifications that can help promote longevity and good health in older age – a nutritious plant-forward diet, regular exercise, social interaction and proactive healthcare are just a few. Older adults know that annual hearing and vision screenings are also important to support optimal cognitive function and connection with others. But sometimes oral health can take a sideline to other health concerns. Good dental and mouth hygiene is associated with overall health, and recent research has found a link between harmful bacteria in the mouth and Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
According to a recent Well + Good report, poor oral health is associated with bacteria that can cause universal inflammation that research has linked with age-related diseases. Researchers recently found a connection between mouth bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease. The mouth is a gateway to the body and helps protect the rest of the system from viruses and bacteria by maintaining a healthy oral microbiome. Much like the gut biome, mouth health balance can reflect what’s happening in the rest of the body. Harmful bacteria from the mouth also can travel through circulation to other areas of the body and may lead to the development or worsening of chronic diseases.
In addition to brushing and flossing morning and night, it’s essential to see a dentist regularly for check-ups. Poor dental hygiene is linked to tooth loss which can result in eating difficulties. Chronic periodontal disease, in which bacteria is circulated to the lungs, can also cause aspiration pneumonia. A 2021 study using data from the British Regional Heart Study in the UK and the Health, Aging and Body Composition Study in the U.S. found that oral health problems were associated with all cause mortality and some oral health markers were also linked with cardiovascular disease and respiratory mortality.
According to the author of The Mouth-Body Connection, Dr. Gerry Curatola, chronic low-grade oral disease is a major source of inflammation throughout the body which can sometimes result in systemic problems including CVD, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. In addition to regular dental hygiene and care, nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, alcohol consumption and smoking can also influence gum disease and oral health.