Emory University, working with the Centers for Disease Control, has shown that people with gingivitis and periodontitis have a mortality rate that is 23 to 46 % higher than those who don't.
That's a message that Pleasanton dentist Dr. Vivian Cheng has been passing to her older patients.
"Basically, it's because when you floss more and brush more, you eliminate the bacterial in the oral cavities," Cheng explained. "The bacteria sometimes travel through the system and is linked with heart disease and diabetes as well."
Studies show that flossing can actually make your arteries and immune system work like they're younger. The bacteria that cause periodontal disease trigger an immune response that causes the arteries to swell. That swelling results in a constriction of blood flow, leading in turn to a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease.
Periodontal disease has also been linked to a higher white blood cell count, which is an indicator that the immune system is under increased stress.
Cheng says that's not the only good news about the benefit of regular flossing.
"Pregnant women might also want to know that with gum disease in the mouth, it can increase the risk of low birth-weight babies," she said. "They're still doing studies and they don't know why, but the statistics show a link between the two."
She recommends a cleaning every three to six months in addition to daily brushing and flossing.
Incidentally, when it comes to longevity, men who have regular sex in a happy monogamous heterosexual relationship and who eat lots -- but don't overindulge -- in pizza, marinara sauce and spaghetti can add an additional five years to their lives.
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