Brushing and flossing aren’t exactly fun, but they do more than just preventing bad breath. Several studies have linked oral health to lifespan and specifically to cardiovascular disease.
A study in the Journal of Aging Research followed a cohort of 5611 older adults (ages 52 to 105, with a median of 81 years old) between 1992 and 2009 to measure the relationship between oral health and mortality. The researchers found significant links between longevity and three oral hygiene habits: nightly brushing, nightly flossing, and dentist visits. Compared to nightly brushing, those who never brushed their teeth at night had a 20–35% greater risk of dying. Compared to flossing every day, those who never flossed increased their risk of death by 30%. Not seeing a dentist in the last 12 months increased the risk of death by 30–50%. The number of missing teeth was also correlated with mortality risk. In essence, the researchers had found significant links between oral hygiene/health and mortality.
Other studies have also examined the link between oral hygiene and longevity. For example, several studies have linked periodontal disease (a.k.a. gum disease) to cardiovascular disease. A review study in Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine explored the link between these diseases and showed that periodontal disease is a risk factor for developing arterial plaque, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. While the mechanism is somewhat unclear, it is possible that the pathogens from gum disease directly invade the bloodstream to create problems. Alternatively, these pathogens may increase systemic levels of inflammation through other mediators, which may also cause heart issues.
Inflammation is bad for the body in many ways, and chronic inflammation can lead to several unpleasant symptoms and conditions. Given the links between heart disease, inflammation, and levels of oral hygiene, it is probably worth your time to brush, floss, and visit the dentist.