Good teeth linked with longevity

Living for a long time and having good teeth seem to be inextricably linked together in many ways. Sometimes it is unclear whether the longevity is caused by good oral health, or if this person is just really healthy, and thus has good teeth. But the truth is, if you have lost all your teeth when you are seventy, you probably will not make it to one hundred, although there are exceptions.

The New England Centenarian Study

The study regarding teeth was a part of the New England Centenarian Study, which is a study that seeks to explain why so (relatively) many people in New England reach extreme old age. Right now we are not sure, and the idea is that teeth have something to do with it. Of the centenarians asked, only about 37% were edentulous (without any teeth). The centenarians also had much better oral health than their age cohorts.

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The mystery

While unnecessarily taxing your immune system by constantly fighting off low grade infections will tire your system out sooner than if you did not have to do it, it is unclear how big of a role oral health played in keeping these people alive for so long. The formation of oral cancer is just one thing that can happen when there is constantly a battle against bacteria going on, but many other problems can arise from poor oral health. But if someone is especially healthy, they will not need to do much in the way of oral health and still have a healthy mouth, as their naturally strong immune system will destroy any problems before they become too severe.

The study

The study is quite unique in that it tracks down 73 centenarians from New England, and their 467 offspring, and see what their key to health is. The information gained from the offspring and the centenarians is compared to a control group of 251 people who have died or did not make it to this age from New England. This exciting study takes into account every single aspect of life, and thus dentistry is included. The folks involved in the study are 105 or older, and could be quite useful for physicians and doctors who try and keep their patients alive for as long as possible. I personally think that location is the most important factor, as these people are wealthy, this is the richest part of the country, they have very little environmental damage, and have had very little industry, mostly paper mills that closed down in the 50s, so it is not all that surprising why these fine folks live to this old age.

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