Flossing: the Fountain of Youth?

February 23, 2011

The Dental profession, (me included), has for years been trumpeting the merits of flossing to preventperiodontal/gum disease and promote good general dental health. Now we hear from the latest research that flossing can also increase the span of the years of your life!

The fact that flossing daily can extend life expectancy falls in the weird-but-true category. Besides preventing periodontal/gum disease, it also prevents heart disease which is not quite as obvious. Preventing both of these together is what adds years to your life.

Here’s how flossing improves life expectancy:

When you floss, you help prevent your gums from becoming inflamed. That inflammation leaves a chronic bacterial infection in your mouth, which harms your arteries through two mechanisms: the bacteria find their way in to your arteries and hang out (causing plaques), and your body mounts an immune response to the bacteria in your mouth, causing inflammation (which in turn can cause your arteries to narrow). This makes it hard for your heart to do its job and can lead to heart disease.

There is some debate about how many years you can gain by preventing heart disease. Dr. Perls says 1.5 years, while Dr. Roizen says 6 years. Both of these doctors are gerontologists (aging docs) and have popular books on aging and life expectancy.

Who is right? It doesn’t matter. Flossing is good for your gums and good for your heart, so we have yet one more motivational reason to break out the floss!

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