As I reclined in the dental chair yesterday (jaws forcibly widened, blood drooling from my mouth, metal implements clamped to my molars), my dentist decided it was time I learned about the growing link between gum health and – er, death. Gum health, she informed me, is now thought to be a trigger for heart disease, pancreatic cancer and possibly Diabetes. “It’s very, very exciting,” she effused, before pointing out that my gum health had plenty of room for improvement.
That evening I scrolled through some of our favourite medical sources. And yes, my devilish dentist was right. Unchecked gum disease can reduce one’s lifespan. It’s also been linked to dementia, infertility, obesity and even poor sleep. Several gerontologists list flossing (the key to good gum health) as one of their top tips for healthy ageing. A German dental health expert, Professor Eberhard, has gone further, claiming that poor oral hygiene effectively undoes any age-defying exercise we might be doing. There’s no point going to the gym in a bid to increase your lifespan, he says, if you have gum disease. This is because while exercise strengthens and extends our telomeres (we wrote about telomeres and exercise recently here), gum disease weakens and shortens our telomeres.
But why is it all about flossing? The answer is simple: our mouths are home to more than 700 species of bacteria which hide and multiply beneath our gums where regular brushing can’t reach. From here they spread to other tissues via the blood stream, where they can do untold damage. Several studies have identified gum bacteria in other parts of the body, such as the pancreas, where somehow they’ve created an environment in which cancer cells (for example) take root.
A recent study from the University of Buffalo involving 57,000 women over seven years found that those with periodontal disease or inflamed gums had a 46% higher risk of death from any cause. The author of the study added, “Oral screening in midlife may be just as important as screening for cholesterol, high blood pressure or glucose tolerance.” Read more at http://nyti.ms/2pufMnR.
I suspect my dentist would agree. She’s rigorous with her own dental hygiene – I know this because as soon as she removed her hands from my mouth, I interrogated her. These are her tips for maintaining scrupulous gum health:
Use an electric toothbrush with revs of at least 4000 and keep it fully charged. Brush properly according to the instructions (ie along the gum line).
Brush for 2 minutes twice a day.
Once a day, use an interdental tooth brush (one of those miniature bottle brushes, often called by the brand, TePe) between teeth and follow this with flossing (yes, that’s both interdental brushing and flossing, and yes, my heart is sinking too).
See the hygienist every 3 months.
Don’t waste money on mouth wash or special brush heads or any other gadget claiming to clean between the teeth.
Before you ‘brush’ her advice aside, be aware that approximately half the population has gum disease. If your gums bleed as you brush, you have gingivitis (mild gum disease). According to the NHS website on gum disease, ‘most adults in the UK have gum disease to some degree.’
But the good news is that gingivitis can be permanently prevented by following the very simple steps outlined by my dentist. I’m following her advice myself. I’m keeping my toothbrush on its charger to keep the revs high and I’m trying to invest a few minutes each night doing the double floss she advocates (TePe brush and floss).
It’s summer and it’s hot – which means it’s picnic time. We love this frittata which can be served either warm or cold, either at home or in a grassy field. We picked our first home-grown courgettes last weekend, which made for a particularly delicious frittata. The leek and gruyere will help feed your gut bacteria (read why we love Swiss cheese here and why a daily leek could help replenish your gut here)
COURGETTE, LEEK AND GRUYERE FRITTATA (SERVES 6)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Small knob butter
- 1 leek, sliced
- 3 medium courgettes, cubed
- 8 eggs
- 1 small bunch dill, chopped (excluding stalks)
- 150 g grated gruyere cheese
Heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan. Saute the leek and courgettes for 7-8 minutes until the courgettes are just cooked.
Beat the eggs with the chopped dill and 3 tbsp of the grated cheese. Season.
Combine the vegetables with the eggs and then return everything to the pan, with a little extra oil if necessary.
Cook over a medium heat for 8-10 minutes, until the eggs are just starting to set.
Heat the grill. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese and put the pan under the grill until the top is firm and bubbling (3-4 minutes).
Slice into wedges and eat. Or leave to cool and pack in your picnic box with a crusty loaf.