What if your teeth could tell you whether you were at risk for certain medical conditions? Recent scientific discoveries make it impossible to deny the importance oral health plays on your overall health and longevity and quality of life.

Several recent archaeological findings and studies prove that there are more links between health, lifestyle, diet and your teeth than formerly understood, a correlation that is becoming progressively clear.

What Our Predecessors’ Teeth Tell Us About Our Health

A 10th Century archaeological site in England discovered children’s skeletons with milk teeth exhibiting high nitrogen values. Analysis of these findings at The University of Bradford discovered that maternal stress and malnourishment (from the third trimester onwards) predicts the probability of developing conditions like diabetes, heart disease or obesity later in life.

Lifestyle Habits, Diet and Your Teeth

Lifestyle habits play a big role in the health of your body and your teeth, but how and which factor is more responsible is beginning to be better understood.

Smoking, which is universally linked with poor oral health, has been proven by the University of Otago to be even more responsible for tooth decay and loss than diet as discovered in the remains of Irish Famine Victims. While the potato and milk diet has historically been blamed for their poor dental health, it is now believed that pipe smoking by both sexes was the main culprit.

What Medical Conditions Say About Your Teeth

Medical conditions that appear in the latter stages of life, such as menopause and Alzheimer’s disease, have been confirmed to be tied to periodontal disease and tooth loss.

A woman’s age and the presence of periodontal disease has been linked to the development of high blood pressure. The American Journal of Hypertension included an article about the Women’s Health Initiative-Observational Study, which revealed that postmenopausal women with tooth loss have about a twenty percent increased chance of developing hypertension.

While dental diseases and cognitive impairment have been scientifically linked, Jan Potempa with the Department of Oral Immunology and Infectious Diseases in the School of Dentistry at the University of Louisville and Cortexyme Inc., discovered a strong correlation between chronic gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease. While causation and morbidity is not clear, researchers have discovered the porphyromonas gingivalis (Pg) bacterium, that is linked with gum disease, or periodontal disease, present in the brains of those suffering from AD. Additional studies at the University of Illinois in Chicago further indicate that this bacterium triggers inflammation and degeneration of neurons in the brain and the development of plaques that are present in Alzheimer’s disease.

While more studies need to be conducted to evaluate the mechanisms at play, gum disease is a preventable predictor of diseases affecting the entire body, reinforce the significant role that oral hygiene and dentistry play in our health.