Adults have 32 permanent teeth (including wisdom teeth), which are designed to help you bite and chew food, and even help form words when you speak, for your entire adult life. There is a slight problem, though, and that is the human lifespan has been expanding while poor diet and other issues are causing teeth to decay.
A cup of green tea a day may help keep your teeth strong well into old age.
Now, experts say teeth are “evolved” to only last 45-50 years – which worked fine when life expectancy was not much older than that. Fortunately, humans can now expect to live much longer, even above and beyond 90 years … but our teeth have not caught up yet.
Adding to the problem is that teeth are not designed to self-repair, so once they become decayed or your gums are damaged, it’s difficult if not impossible to bring a tooth back to life, so to speak. The end result is that many of those in the over 40 crowd depend on crowns, bridges and implants to replace lost teeth. But for those who cannot afford such elaborate dental care, tooth loss can become a serious and painful health problem.
There are, however, ways to extend the life of your teeth and keep your choppers healthy well into old age. Among them, brand new research found a tasty beverage that may do wonders for your teeth …
A Cup of Green Tea a Day Keeps the Dentist Away …
Green tea contains antimicrobial molecules called catechins that appear very beneficial to your teeth. Researchers from Columbia University in New York found that men who drank at least one cup of green tea a day were 19 percent less likely to have fewer than 20 teeth than men who drank no tea. Women who drank tea daily also benefited with a 13 percent lower risk.
It’s thought that naturally occurring substances in green tea have bacteriocidal effects, helping to kill mouth bacteria and ward off tooth decay and gum disease. But there is one caveat — you mustn’t add sugar. Adding sugar to tea completely negated the healthful effect.
As an aside, if you’re toying with the idea of adding a cup of green tea to your day, research shows it’s good for fighting diseases like heart disease and cancer and helping with weight loss. Many people sip it religiously everyday in the hopes that it will make them healthier, even above and beyond their teeth. Here is just a short list of some of the conditions green tea is supposed to help:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- High cholesterol levels
- Heart disease
- Impaired immune function
- Obesity, overweight
- High blood sugar levels
Healthy Teeth May Help Ward off Heart Disease, Diabetes
Keeping your teeth free from decay and disease is important to avoid tooth loss, yes, but it’s also important to keep your heart healthy.
New research published in the BMJ also found that people who don’t brush their teeth regularly have an increased risk of heart disease. Among those who “rarely or never” brushed their teeth, the risk of a heart attack, stroke or other event was 70 percent higher than those who brushed twice daily.
The rare brushers also had higher levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation and a potent indicator of heart disease.
The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) also points out that people with gum disease are nearly twice as likely to have heart disease. Gingivitis, cavities and missing teeth are also associated with heart disease, and can predict heart disease risk as well as cholesterol levels.
In fact, when your gums become diseased, they release toxic bacteria into your bloodstream, which promote inflammation and negatively impact your heart and other organs.
“We found the mouth can be a major source of chronic or permanent release of toxic bacterial components in the bloodstream during normal oral functions,” said Dr. E.H. Rompen, director of a study in the Journal of Periodontology in an American Academy of Periodontology press release. “This could be the missing link explaining the abnormally high blood levels of some inflammatory markers or endotoxemia observed in patients with periodontal disease.”
Further, gum disease is often considered the “sixth complication” of diabetes because people with diabetes are significantly more likely to have periodontal disease.
Not only does having diabetes increase the risk of gum disease, but gum disease in turn increases blood sugar, which can lead to diabetes complications, according to a study in the Journal of Periodontology. The finding underscores the importance of healthy teeth and gums for staying healthy and avoiding diabetes — and heart-related — complications.
Beyond Brushing and Flossing: What Can You do to Keep Your Teeth Healthy?
A healthy whole foods diet is essential for good dental health.
Brushing and flossing are the basics to keep your teeth healthy. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily for best results. You should also visit your dentist regularly — at least once every 6 months — to have your teeth professionally cleaned and get an oral health check-up.
Again, these are the basics. So what else can you do?
- Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet will support your oral hygiene routine, making your teeth and gums strong and healthy. If you eat an unbalanced, highly process or fast-food diet, it will be impossible for your immune system to function at its best, and studies show that people with weakened immune systems have a higher risk of gum disease, according to the Academy of General Dentistry.
Likewise, poor diet also increases your risk for heart disease and diabetes, which both in turn are linked to gum disease and other oral health problems.
- Use a tongue scraper. Using a tongue scraper twice a day is an easy way to reduce or eliminate bad breath, and some experts believe it may also help to reduce your risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Tongue scrapers are inexpensive, and it takes only about 10 or 15 seconds to do: just slide the scraper gently over your tongue (you don’t need to press hard!), repeat three or four times to reach the entire surface, and you’re done.
What has been found to work even better for a clean tongue is to use hospital-grade “microfiber hand wipes” to wipe your tongue — on the top and underneath, plus along both sides of your gum line — to remove bacteria in areas a tongue scraper can’t reach. Also, microfiber hand wipes are easy to carry with you and use before conversations with friends or business acquaintances when you want to assure you are not pushing people away due to bad breath you can’t smell.
Using a tongue scraper is a good idea, but using a microfiber cloth to wipe off your tongue takes getting a clean mouth to a whole new level!
- Be careful with sugar and starches. Sugar and starches (bread, crackers, cereal) become a problem when they’re left on your teeth after a snack of meal. Sugar feed bacteria in your mouth, while both starches and sugar produce acid in your mouth that can erode tooth enamel and lead to cavities. Anytime you eat a sugary, starchy food, you should brush your teeth afterward to remove the damaging substances from your mouth. Be especially diligent to not go to sleep after eating a sugar or starchy snack, as they will linger on your teeth, causing damage until your morning brushing.
- Avoid sipping sweet drinks all day. When you sip a soda or fruit juice throughout the day, your teeth never get a break from the sugar and acid. If you do indulge in a soda, drink it and then brush your teeth afterward. Be sure to also avoid giving toddlers a bottle of juice or milk (which contains natural sugars) to sip on for long periods, or right before bed, without brushing their teeth afterward.
- Choose these teeth-healthy foods… A balanced diet is best for your teeth, but there are certain foods that may give your dental health an added boost. These include:
- Cheese, lean protein (chicken, grass-fed beef, etc.), nuts, plain yogurt and other dairy products: These foods provide calcium and phosphorous to “remineralize” teeth, a process during which minerals are put back onto teeth enamel after acids remove them.
- Firm and crunchy fruits and veggies: Apples, celery and pears are all examples of fruits and veggies that have high water content, which helps stimulate the flow of saliva (useful for protecting against tooth decay and acid) and dilutes the effects of sugars.
- Avoid foods such as candy, cookies, dried fruits, potato chips, muffins, pretzels, cakes, pies, lollipops and French fries, which contain large amounts of sugar and/or starch, or may stick to your teeth. If you do eat these foods, be sure to brush your teeth promptly afterward.
Overall, by seeking regular dental care, brushing twice a day and flossing daily, and eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, you can expect your teeth to stay healthy and strong, just like you.
“Happiness is your dentist telling you it won’t hurt and then having him catch his hand in the drill.”