You may already show signs of developing it—so let’s STOP it in its tracks
The United States is one of the most developed countries in the world. And we spend a higher portion of our gross domestic product on healthcare than any other country.
Yet, in terms of overall performance, our healthcare system came in at a woeful 37th out of 191 countries in a recent World Health Organization analysis.1
That’s downright pitiful. And in my view, there are MANY contributing factors to this poor performance. But let’s shift our focus to ONE major, overlooked component…
It’s a “gateway” health problem that can lead to significant changes to your well-being over the years.
In fact, research links this “gateway” problem to more than 120 other serious diseases and conditions—including Type 2 diabetes, heart and kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, osteoporosis, and even CANCER. And nearly HALF of Americans ages 30 years and older already show signs of it!2
But most individuals—and primary physicians—don’t seem to understand its significance… or make it a priority to fix.
Worse yet, in many parts of the country, people don’t even have access to qualified professionals who can treat it.
So, allow me to expose this “gateway” problem and the steps you can take to ensure you don’t ever develop it…
Overlooked health factor tied to disease
I’m talking about poor dental health. Yes, your oral health really CAN predict your disease risk.
Far more than just an issue of bad breath or personal appearance, a lack of dental hygiene is strongly associated with more than 120 other serious health problems. And the connection between periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, and Type 2 diabetes is perhaps the strongest.3
Periodontal disease occurs when your gums recede or pull away from your teeth and form small pockets where food and bacteria can become trapped. About half of all Americans age 30 years and older show signs of it.
Plus, people with severe periodontal disease often have higher levels of HbA1c, the longterm measure of blood sugar control. Some researchers think it can even CAUSE blood sugar problems by increasing inflammation.
People with gum disease also have higher levels of c-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory protein linked to heart disease.
Some evidence suggests that bacteria from the infected gum tissue can enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body, causing inflammation and arterial plaque. And in one recent study, researchers found strong evidence that oral bacteria actually CAUSES atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
But that’s not all…
Another major study conducted by researchers with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland found that oral bacteria that slips into the bloodstream can also cause deadly BLOOD CLOTS.
Here again, it occurs when Streptococcus gordonii, bacteria commonly found in the mouth, enters the bloodstream and mimics the human protein fibrinogen. This causes platelets to clump together inside blood vessels. These clumps, or clots, can lead to heart attack, stroke, or endocarditis (deadly inflammation of the heart’s chambers and valves).4
Other research suggests poor dental health also causes dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.5 In a 2019 study, researchers tested brain tissue samples taken from deceased Alzheimer’s patients and found evidence of Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis), a type of bacteria linked to gum disease.
They also found P. gingivalis in brain tissue of patients not yet diagnosed with Alzheimer’s—suggesting that the gum infections may contribute to the development of cognitive disease.
And this wasn’t just one random finding…
A second, larger study, this time funded by the National Institutes on Aging, found that older patients with signs of gum disease are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Again, P. gingivalis seemed to be the main culprit.6
On a positive note, it appears that treating gum disease improved outcomes in people with chronic conditions like heart disease and dementia.
But here’s the shocking thing…
In many parts of the country, Americans don’t have adequate access to dental treatment…
Widespread “dental deserts” worsen the problem
It’s hard to imagine in a country as wealthy as this, but millions of Americans live in so-called “dental deserts”—meaning there aren’t enough dentists to treat the population where they live.7 In other parts of the country, there are plenty of dentists, but too few of them are willing to take Medicare or PPO types of insurance.
In Florida alone, for example, about six million residents live in a dental desert. (Florida also ranks in the bottom quarter of the U.S. when it comes to dental health.8)
Now, to be fair, many people across the country don’t pay enough attention to their dental health, which may contribute to the holes in the system. In fact, research shows 37 percent of adults in the U.S. have gone more than a year without seeing a dentist.
Of course, there are lots of reasons why people may avoid the dentist—ranging from very real dental anxiety to lack of dental insurance.
If that sounds like you, remember this: Research shows dental health is absolutely fundamental to your overall health. Moreover, prevention is far cheaper, and less anxiety inducing, than getting a root canal… or dealing with chronic disease.
So, let’s move on to a few ways to ensure you don’t ever develop this “gateway” health problem…
Prevention is key
First and foremost, make sure you schedule routine dental check-ups every six months. This kind of routine care will allow your dentist or hygienist to discover potential areas of concern before they lead to bigger health problems, like heart disease or dementia.
If you live in a so-called “dental desert,” I suggest looking for a “dental therapist” in your area by visiting www.dentaltherapy.org. They don’t have as many skills as dentists, but they can perform basic, essential procedures—such as cleanings, fillings, and extractions.
In addition to scheduling regular check-ups with a qualified dental professional, make sure to:
- Brush your teeth 3x daily
- Floss daily—especially after meals
- Use mouthwash
- Cut out the sweets and ultra-processed foods, which cause cavities and harm your dental health. Not to mention, all that junk is bad for your overall health anyway!
Now, I should note that—while I encourage you to brush, floss, and use mouthwash daily… I have a few caveats.
Use a fluoride-free toothpaste. I consider fluoride to be a dangerous toxin that can harm your health (and especially your cognition).
Look for untreated floss picks or floss made from organic silk or beeswax. That’s because most floss contains polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs)—widespread chemicals with links to a long list of diseases, including cancer.
And finally, opt for a probiotic mouthwash to avoid fluoride and chlorhexidine, another toxic “antiseptic” agent commonly found in mouthwash that might sabotage your health.
In the end, mounting evidence suggests that your overall health depends heavily on how well you take care of your teeth. And yes, good oral health CAN help ward off Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and MORE.
So, schedule that routine dental appointment… and revamp your routine at home. After all, it’s an easy way to guide your long-term health and well-being.
- “World Health Organization Assesses the World’s Health Systems.” World Health Organization, 2/7/00. (who.int/news/item/07-02-2000-world-health-organization-assesses-the-world’s-health-systems#:~:text=The%20U.S.%20health%20system%20spends,health%20services%2C%20ranks%2018%20th%20)
- “Adult Oral Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12/22/20. (cdc.gov/oralhealth/basics/adult-oral-health/index.html#:~:text=More%20than%201%20in%204,States%20have%20untreated%20tooth%20decay.&text=Adults%20who%20are%20low%2Dincome,untreated%20cavities%20than%20comparison%20groups.)
- “What Gum Disease Can Mean for Your Overall Health.” Everyday Health, 2/14/18. (everydayhealth.com/periodontal-disease/what-gum-disease-can-mean-your-overall-health/#:~:text=Research%20has%20linked%20oral%20health,asthma%2C%20osteoporosis%2C%20and%20cancer.)
- “Dental plaque bacteria may trigger blood clots.” ScienceDaily, 2/26/12. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120326113436.htm>.)
- “Porphyromonas gingivalis in Alzheimer’s disease brains: Evidence for disease causation and treatment with small-molecule inhibitors,” ScienceAdvances, 2019; 5(1). doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aau3333
- “Clinical and bacterial markers of periodontitis and their association with incident all-cause and Alzheimer’s disease dementia in a large national survey.” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2020;75(1):157-172. doi.org/10.3233/JAD-200064.
- “Millions Are Stuck in Dental Deserts, With No Access to Oral Health Care.” KFF Health News, 5/1/23. (kffhealthnews.org/news/article/dental-deserts-florida-access-to-oral-care/)
- “2023’s States with the Best & Worse Dental Health.” WalletHub, 2/1/23. (wallethub.com/edu/states-with-best-worst-dental-health/31498)