By: Jean Johnson for Dental1
Once again, those of us who get up off the couch, eat well and keep our weight down take the prize. This time instead of the usual links to lowering heart disease and adult onset diabetes, it’s our teeth – or more specifically, the health of our gums.
| Being active effects the health of your teeth as well as your waistline. Nine leisure time activities the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III considered adequate: |
Walking a mile or more at a time without stopping
Jogging or running
Aerobic dancing or exercise
Garden or yard work
To calculate your BMI,
According to a new study, “Periodontitis and Three Health-Enhancing Behaviors: Maintaining Normal Weight, Engaging in Recommended Level of Exercise, and Consuming a High-Quality Diet,” published in the Journal of Periodontology, links between good self care and sound oral health are strong – as in 40 percent correlations.
Denise Rellim, physical therapist in Vancouver, Washington, is a 5’2”, size 6 swimmer and mother of two. “Somehow it doesn’t surprise me – the idea of good health and healthy teeth,” Rellim said. “Still, now that I know there’s a third leg to the stool that benefits from me taking all the pains I do to keep fit, my motivation is even stronger.” Rellim adds that she’s definitely going to mention the study to her teenage boys and try to help them stick closer to the meals from the family’s organic garden, not to mention taking a wide berth around junk and processed foods.
“Even juices,” said Rellim. “The schools seem to think they’re doing such a wonderful thing by switching from canned pop to canned juice. But I’d rather my sons get their fruit as close-hand to the trees and vines as they can. If they get thirsty at school, they can get a drink of water and save their teeth from all that concentrated sugar – even if it is natural, it’s still got to take a toll on their teeth and gums.”
Lead researcher for the study, Mohammad S. Al-Zahrani from the division of periodontics at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, conducted the study for his doctoral dissertation work in epidemiology at Case Western Reserve University in the United States. Al-Zahrani collaborated with Elaine Borawski of Case’s department of epidemiology and statistics as well as Nabil Bissada, chair of the Case School of Dental Medicine’s department of periodontics.
The Al-Zahrani study started from the hypothesis that the same factors that prevent heart disease and lower risks for diabetes might also affect oral health. In part the initial research question was based on the idea that exercise reduces blood levels of C-reactive protein that is in turn associated with inflammation in the heart and gums, as well as research on healthy eating habits that are associated with reduced production of plaque biofilm, the primary epidemiological factor in periodontal disease.
The team used data based on more than 12,000 Americans questioned in the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. Information on food intake over a 24-hour period, weight and activity was collected. According to Case’s Susan Griffith, “if individuals reported five or more moderate physical activities or three intensive activity sessions a week, it was considered healthy. Weight was considered normal range if it fell within the body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2.”
Prior to the study, the dental community focused more narrowly on periodontitis and tended to recommend brushing and flossing exclusively as deterrents. More than 30 percent of the population in the United States suffers from periodontitis. Thus, the Al-Zahrani team reports that “since oral health professionals may see their patients two or four times a year, it gives them several opportunities to promote these healthy behaviors.”
Periodontal disease, or inflammation and infection of the gums and supporting tissues surrounding the teeth, is troublesome because it compromises the very foundation of sound oral health. In short, gum infections that become severe enough can result in tooth loss – and we’re generally talking about considerably more than a single polite canine here.
The good news is that western society has never been more health conscious. It is increasingly borrowing ideas about ramping up the quality of its diet from its Mediterranean, Asian and Latin American neighbors. Additionally people of all ages are educating themselves on the benefits of staying active and steering clear of eating and activity habits that pile on the pounds. That the latest from the experts is that these efforts will pay off in terms of our teeth as well as our hearts and circulation systems can only make the discipline it takes to walk the high road go down that much easier.