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Teeth truth: Your dental health can affect your whole body

A smiling woman flosses her teeth.

Nov. 2, 2022—A gorgeous smile, fresh breath, and healthy teeth and gums are good reasons to see the dentist twice a year for a checkup. Here's another: derailing disease. Good dental care can help keep your whole body healthy. Here's the inside story.

A whole-body look at oral health

Consider: Your mouth is filled with at least 700 different kinds of bacteria, some of which can cause gum disease and other oral infections. But harmful bacteria from your mouth doesn't just stay put. Research suggests that it may travel in your bloodstream to the rest of your body, raising levels of inflammation that can set the stage for chronic disease, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports that gum disease is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. In pregnant women, gum disease is also associated with premature births and low birth weight.

And according to the AHA, harmful oral bacteria has also been linked to high blood pressure in older women and an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease in older adults.

Although more research is in the works, regular dental care may help prevent gum disease, which some studies indicate might help keep your whole body—and your brain—healthy.

You can help prevent gum disease

An estimated 1 in 7 adults ages 35 to 44 has gum disease. After age 65, the rate increases to 1 in 4, according to HHS. To avoid gum disease and maintain good oral health, the American Dental Association recommends:

  • Brushing your teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Flossing daily.
  • Eating a balanced diet and limiting between-meal snacks.
  • Visiting your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.

If you have a health condition, such as diabetes, you may need to see the dentist more often. Ask your dentist for a checkup schedule that's right for you.

Brush up on your dental health

For more helpful tips on taking good care of your teeth and your health, check out our Dental Care health topic center.

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