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A Simple Piece of String Can Enhance Your Life

Published December 8, 2014 10:52 AM by Brian Garavaglia

Living longer. Many individuals are often attempting to find some fountain of youth that can enhance their lives. Commercials and advertisements abound with supposed remedies that will increase one's life. Yet, a very simple technique that dentists have been advocating for years can be an important enhancement for one's longevity. Research has been finding that oral care is very important for not only warding off diseases of the mouth, but also other more systemic ailments. Furthermore, gum health and regular flossing of one's teeth can be an incredibly important lifestyle feature that can be an important preventative form of health care as well as a technique that can be used to enhance one's life.

For years dentists have advanced the importance of using that simple piece of string to mechanically remove debris that settles in between teeth and at the gum line. The gums often become inflamed due to bacterial infections, many of which go unnoticed. Food particles that remain between teeth and in the gum lines can further produce a very good growth environment for bacteria. Bacteria within the gums does not just stay within the oral cavity, but further migrates to other areas of the body. In particular, recent research has paid particular attention to how poor oral care and infections in the oral cavity can contribute to heart disease. In addition, chronic inflammation of the gums due to bacterial infections can lead to further health issues as the bacteria moves to other areas of the body. These continuous levels of infection within the gums and oral cavity can continue to lead an assault on the body that reduces one's life expectancy. 

Many simple solutions often fall far short of their stated results. However, a simple piece of string or dental floss used regularly appears to be one of those important simple, yet profoundly impactful lifestyle habits that can hold significant consequences for a person's longevity. Many individuals often have minimized the importance of oral care in general, and flossing in particular, as part of a healthy lifestyle behavioral intervention that can enhance one's health and longevity. In fact, it has been estimated that sound oral health can add approximately 1.5 to 6 years to one's longevity. 

Most of the older adult population fails to recognize the importance of flossing. Moreover, most of the older adult population also show signs of gum disease. This is problematic since not only is gum disease the leading cause of tooth loss, it is evidence of a constant and unabated infection that exists. A continuous level of bacterial buildup infecting the body can have a pervasive impact on one's health. That can ultimately lead to more health issues and premature death. Yet, a very simple mechanical measure of flossing daily can provide important dividends for one's overall health. 

As problematic as gum infections are in the mainstream population, among the institutional population it is even a greater epidemic issue. Among those older adults within nursing homes, dental hygiene is often overlooked by caregivers. A large portion of the nursing home population not only fails to receive adequate professional dental care, but they are also failing to get the appropriate level of daily care that can lead to not only good dental and periodontal health, but also assist in forestalling greater levels of infection, compromised health, and possibly unnecessary hospitalization. Again, much of the inadequate dental care provided to older adults is frequently due to the lack of knowledge among the staff regarding the importance of oral and dental health to the overall systemic health of the person.

Given the growing level of research on dental health and its connection to the overall health of the person, it is becoming increasingly apparent that aging in a healthy manner, compressing overall morbidity as we age, as well as increasing our longevity is dependent upon paying greater attention to our dental care, and in particular being sensitive to our gum health and our need for proper flossing to assist in this area. It appears that individuals can often be dismissive about the importance of flossing, particularly due to it being a very simplistic modality which intuitively does not seem to fit with the complexity that we often seek for increasing health and longevity. Yet, this very simple dental procedure, if used daily, can aid in gum health, and aid in the general health of the person, which in turn can potentially add years to one's life.     


Stibich, M (2014).  Simple steps to increase your life expectancy.

Adult dental health: Healthy aging (2014).


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About this Blog

    Brian Garavaglia, PhD
    Occupation: Long-term care administrator
    Setting: Sterling Heights, Mich.
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