Friday, January 25, 2008

Healthy Habit No. 6: Practice Good Dental Hygiene

Flossing your teeth every day could add 6.4 years to your life, according to Michael Roizen, MD, author of RealAge. In his book, Roizen lists flossing as one of the most important daily activities -- along with exercise and quitting smoking -- that could extend life span.

Roizen's calculation may raise some eyebrows, but the idea that oral health is connected to overall health isn't far-fetched.

The mouth, after all, is an integral part of the body. "Teeth have a blood supply, and that blood supply comes from the heart," says Richard Price, DMD, consumer advisor for the American Dental Association (ADA).

Researchers suspect that the bacteria that produce dental plaque enter the bloodstream. They say these bacteria are somehow associated with the inflammation that occurs with plaque that blocks blood vessels and causes heart disease.

Other researchers have found links between oral bacteria and stroke, diabetes, and the birth of preterm babies and those that have low birth weight.

In addition to preventing disease, flossing and brushing can help keep your pearly whites intact for more than just cosmetic reasons. Teeth help you chew food, speak properly, and smile -- which, according to Price, can help you keep your dignity.


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