It seems odd that a little habit you were nagged about as a kid can truly save your health. Science is continuing to show the many ways that flossing does more than keep the broccoli out of your pearly whites.
1. Flossing protects your heart
It seems unlikely that the state of your teeth can affect the health of your heart, but it’s true. Researchers at Hiroshima University have calculated those with fewer than 24 of their own teeth (adults should have 32) are 60 percent more likely to suffer a stroke. And this isn’t a one-time study – scientists took a look at four separate ones to come to the conclusion that there is a definitive link between periodontal disease (aka gum inflammation) and heart disease.
Micro-organisms associated with gum disease have been found to damage cells in the lining of the arteries, and increase compounds involved in clotting.
Bottom line: Don’t dismiss that bi-annual cleaning at your dentist. It can lower your risk of heart attack by 24 percent and stroke by 13 perfect. In this case, a little vanity helps your heart.
2. It can help men with E.D.
If the heart help still won’t get you to keep some floss handy, this certainly will: it can affect your performance in the bedroom. According to a paper published in Journal of Periodontology, gum disease was seven times more common in men with erectile dysfunction than their counterparts. If your hubby is losing steam in the bedroom it can be a result of bacteria passing into the bloodstream – from his gums. If that’s the case then the quality of his smile may just take on more meaning.
3. Flossing can ease hormonal symptoms
Men aren’t the only ones taking a hit for gum disease; it turns out that your hormones can also be affected if your oral health isn’t maintained. Changes in hormonal balance can alter the chemistry (pH balance) of the mouth creating a more hospitable environment for bacteria to grow, enter the bloodstream and aggravate health issues.
The rising progesterone levels that occur in the second half of your menstrual cycle can significantly impact, and increase symptoms of gingevitis. If your gums tend to bleed closer to your period it may not be your aggressive flossing techniques, but an increase in blood to your gum line. A 2012 study showed that gum disease is another symptom hormonal women can add to the list of their symptoms that already include hot flashes and/or PMS depending on their place in life.
Bottom line: Proper diet and dental care, together with a daily vitamin E and vitamin C supplement will help if this is the case.
4. Floss yourself skinny
That which is lurking in your mouth – from plaque to cavities – may have just as much to do with weight gain as what you’re putting in your mouth. A review in Obesity Reviews found a positive association between body composition and periodontitis (gum disease). This means that those with higher body fat levels were more likely to have periodontitis.
The opposite is also true. A study of diabetic patients showed that taking care of your teeth daily can have a positive impact on blood sugar, decrease inflammation overall and help with your glycemic control. Seeing as, “The prevalence of periodontitis in diabetic subjects is estimated to be double or even triple the number in the normal population,” we recommend flossing everyday — no excuses.
5. It relieves joint pain
If you’re looking to fend off join pain, start with your teeth. In a study of people with gum disease and arthritis, the same plaque bacteria was found in subjects’ mouths and joints. Those bleeding and inflamed gums can let in harmful microbes than enter the bloodstream make their way into joint fluid.
Bottom line: The next time your knee is acting up, try revitalizing your flossing and brushing habits.
6. Floss to minimize infection
In a nutshell, bacteria from a gum infection can slip into your throat and take the fast track to your airways and upper respiratory track.
Research published in the Journal of Periodontology uncovered a link between periodontal disease and pulmonary disease, such as pneumonia and acute bronchitis. While we are months away from cold and flu season, you certainly don’t want to become vulnerable to pneumonia, bronchitis or other respiratory diseases on account of your oral health.
7. Bun in the oven:
With all this importance placed on taking care of your teeth, you may not be surprised that it also helps you take care of a baby (to be).
A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found an association between the use of a non-alcohol antimicrobial mouth rinse in pregnant women and a decreased rate of premature deliveries. However, if morning sickness has taken over, you can always rinse your mouth with a teaspoon of baking soda, dissolved in a glass of water to neutralize the acid.
If you’re still trying to conceive, note that women with gum disease can take two months longer to get pregnant than their regularly-flossing counterparts.
Watch for more on the benefits of proper oral hygiene:
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and The Supercharged Hormone Diet. Her newest release, The Carb Sensitivity Program, is now available across Canada. She’s also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique and a regular guest on The Dr. Oz Show. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.