A Simple Four-Step Plan to Optimize Your Oral-Systemic Health, by Amy Doneen

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Your dental provider is a potentially lifesaving member of your chronic disease prevention team! Here is some powerful motivation to take excellent care of your teeth and gums: Doing so is one of the simplest – and most effective – ways to add years to your life, as a recent study of more than 5,600 older adults proves. The researchers tracked the participants for 17 years and reported that:

Never brushing at night elevated the risk for death during the study period by 20 to 25 percent, compared to brushing every night.
Never flossing upped mortality risk by 30 percent, versus daily flossing.
Not seeing a dentist in the previous 12 months raised mortality risk by up to 50 percent, compared to getting dental care two or more times a year.

Another startling finding from the study: One major predictor of early death was missing teeth, even when other risk factors were taken into account. A subsequent study of these participants also found that older adults who neglected their teeth were up to 65 percent more likely to develop dementia than those with excellent oral health. Here are some proven tips that will help you combat bacterial villains and achieve a perfect 10 in oral-systemic wellness from Doug Thompson, DDS, FAAMM, ABAAHP, founder of the Wellness Dentistry Network, and Cris Duval, RDH, who has served as the BaleDoneen Method’s oral wellness liaison.

Step 1. Partner with your dental provider and set goals to take your oral health to the next level of excellence. With study after study linking poor oral health to higher risk for life-threatening conditions, says Dr. Thompson, “dentists and dental hygienists are increasingly attuned to the oral-systemic connection and our important role in chronic disease prevention. My colleagues and I like to say, ‘On a good day, we save a smile and on a great day, we’ll save a life.’ ” Patients are also taking a more active role in their oral care. Make the most of your next dental visit by preparing a list of your oral health goals, concerns and questions, such as these:

  • How do you rank my oral health on a scale of 1 to 10?
  • What are my risk factors for periodontal disease?
  • What needs to happen for the two of us to get my oral health to a 10?
  • Are you willing to partner/coach me on how to achieve my oral health goals?
  • How do you rank my overall health on a scale of 1 to 10 and are there any red flags in my medical history that stand out?
  • What needs to happen for the two of us to get my overall health to a 10?

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