Finding a good primary care/family physician that you trust and who represents the type of medicine and healthcare you adhere to is important. For many people, that may be a complementary or alternative health MD, a DO, or perhaps a naturopath.
However, based on two different studies published in May 2015, perhaps that person should be your dentist. Let me explain.
One study from the journal Retina found that people who had periodontal disease had higher incidence of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Researchers looked at 8,208 people who had been diagnosed with AMD and divided them into two groups based on age—age 60 and younger and over the age of 60.
Researchers found that—after excluding for things such as sex, race, smoking, hypertension, BMI, cardiovascular disease, and C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation)—periodontal disease was independently associated with an increased risk for AMD in those people age 60 or younger.
A second study, this one from PLoS One, found that the number of teeth a person had was associated with a higher risk of myocardial infarction. Myocardial infarction is simply a fancy way of saying heart attack.
Researchers looked at more than 24,000 middle-aged Germans and measured number of teeth, as well as non-fatal heart attacks, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. They found that those people with 18-23 teeth (“normal” count of teeth for an adult is 32) and those without any teeth had a 76 percent higher risk of heart attack and slight increase risk for stroke, compared to those with a fuller set of teeth. There was no increased risk for either diabetes or cancer.
Researchers concluded, “Number of teeth is specifically associated with myocardial infarction and not with other chronic disease, indicating that dental status further strengthens the link between oral heath and cardiovascular disease.”
While these findings may be surprising on the surface, the reality is there has long been a strong connection between chronic gum diseases like periodontitis and an increased risk of heart disease. The common denominator between both? Inflammation.
Similarly, two different cardiovascular markers—healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels—have been associated with a lower risk for AMD. This is even less surprising, as the “wet” form of AMD, which is responsible for the vast majority of functional blindness due to the disease, is caused by abnormal blood vessel growth, which causes leakage and bleeding below the macula.
Given this, your dentist can tell you much more about your overall health then whether you have a cavity. They can also let you know if you are at risk for vision loss or even heart issues. Pretty great stuff, right?
One way to support all three areas of health—vision, dental, and heart—is with antioxidants such as CoQ10, lutein, zeaxanthin, and essential fatty acids. CoQ10 in particular has been shown to benefit the heart as well as safeguard the gums by reducing free radical damage and reducing inflammation.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are proven to protect against AMD and support heart health, while EFAs help to ease dry eye and reduce systemic inflammation.
Four nutrients for three different yet related conditions. It doesn’t get any easier that that!