Dental Health and Anti-Aging: What's the Connection?
There's a plaque on the wall of most dentists’ offices that states, “You don’t have to floss all of your teeth, only the ones you want to keep.” How clever and apropos. One third of your tooth surface is between the teeth, and only flossing will keep it clean. Brushing without flossing is comparable to washing only 65% of your body, which simply means you are not completely clean.
I have a couple of stories that demonstrate the importance of flossing your teeth and good dental care.
The first is about myself. I always thought I had good dental hygiene, until I entered the Air Force after my general surgery residency. It was required to visit the dentist for instructions on proper dental hygiene. Of course, as a general surgeon, I thought it was ridiculous. I was wrong. They painted a solution on my teeth and then shined a black light on them to demonstrate plaque and debris on my teeth and gums. Boy, did I have a surprise! It looked awful. The sergeant then proceeded to instruct me on proper dental care, and I listened intently. That was in 1969 and I have not gone a single night since then without flossing my teeth.
The sergeant promised me that I would have a different taste in my mouth after a few days of consistent flossing. He was right. The taste (and I’m sure the breath) is much more clean and fresh. Since then, the Sonic toothbrush has entered the picture, which has been added to my regimen of brushing for two minutes followed by flossing.
The second story is about an old friend of mine, who refuses to floss. He uses a soft toothpick to “massage” the gums. He has a long history of gingivitis and breath that is worse than foul. I have told him why flossing is necessary to cut the debris from between the teeth, but he still won't change his behavior. He is destined to have continued bad reath and will most likely lose many of his teeth down the road.
Why am I as a plastic surgeon writing about dental hygiene?
Besides the fact that people with rotten or missing teeth don’t look good or healthy, poor dental hygiene causes your maxilla (the bone that your upper teeth are attached to) and your mandible (your jaw bone) to wither away. One of the main causes of sagging of the face is from the loss of volume from the atrophy of fat and bone. Loss of bone volume makes you look old. It even makes your nose droop and point downward. Therefore, proper dental hygiene is equal anti-aging, as well as being good for your health.
Interestingly and amazing to me, only 12% of people in the USA floss their teeth daily. Another interesting tidbit is that recent studies indicate that daily flossing reduces the incidence of heart disease. This is attributable to the close relationship between gum disease and heart attacks. It makes sense, because both gum disease and heart disease are inflammatory diseases. Regular flossing prevents gingivitis.
The effects of regular flossing are far reaching. So happy flossing for the rest of your life. You will learn to appreciate the fresh taste in your mouth, and others will appreciate your breath!