While we all start our day with brushing our teeth, most of us don’t really pay attention when we’re brushing. We brush distractedly, thinking about other things like to-do lists or weekend plans. Of course, when some oral problem crops up and we have to visit the dentist, oral hygiene comes into focus and for the next week or two, we typically brush carefully until we slip back into mechanical brushing, thinking that everything is good. But that may not always be the case. The problem that started in the mouth may have spread to other important organs in the body.
Poor oral hygiene can have an impact on overall health and disease. Bacteria from the mouth can cause infection in other parts of the body when the immune system has been compromised by disease or medical treatments. Periodontal disease (gum disease) has been associated with a number of systemic conditions.
The mouth—liver connection
The link between oral problems like periodontal disease and other medical conditions may not be fully understood, but recent studies show that brushing your teeth properly could prevent liver disease. Experts fear bugs from the mouth can travel through the body to infect the liver. (When your liver is healthy so are you.)
In one study involving 184 cirrhosis patients, researchers found that 44 percent of the participants also had severe gum disease. To make matters worse, the research found patients who had severe gum disease and were already suffering from cirrhosis were more likely to die. Dr. Lea Gronkjaer, who led the Danish research, said: “Severe periodontitis strongly predicted higher mortality in cirrhosis.”
The study demonstrates that liver disease patients who suffer from poor oral health are more likely to die, and researchers hoped that their findings would lay the foundation for further research. “Although it can be treated successfully, we hope our findings motivate more trials on this subject,” added Dr. Gronkjaer. (Your liver is the missing link to feeling younger and stronger.)
Liver disease is the fourth biggest cause of premature death in the U.K., which has increased by 400 percent in the last 40 years. The average age of death from liver disease is 57, which is 20 years younger than the average age of death from cancer, stroke, and heart disease. In the U.S., at least 30 million people—or one in 10 Americans—have some form of liver disease.
And now, thanks to this study, we are beginning to understand that, in many cases, it all starts with poor oral hygiene.
While brushing your teeth properly isn’t rocket science, it does require a conscious effort to make sure it’s done right for the best results. (A tired liver can leave you feeling old, tired, and weak long before your time.)
Tips for proper brushing
- The most common pitfall that keeps people from brushing their teeth properly is that they don’t brush for long enough. Most dentists recommend brushing for two to three minutes, spending at least 30 seconds on each “quadrant” of your mouth.
- Brushing your teeth properly means making sure you reach every tooth, as well as every surface of every tooth.
- Don’t forget your tongue. The tongue harbors a multitude of bacteria, particularly those that contribute to bad breath. You can use a regular brush or a tongue scraper.
By brushing teeth properly, you can help keep your mouth and teeth in good health for years to come—and your liver too. Many doctors consider the liver to be the most important organ in the body. Yes, more important than the heart and the brain. So, it only makes sense to do all you can to protect it. You can start with brushing your teeth properly.