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Gum health involves whole-body health

Nov. 17, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

It's hard to believe, but antibiotics destroyed Charlize Theron's baby teeth: "I had no teeth until I was 11," she says. Wow. Great smile now. How'd that happen? (Hint: Great dental care and flossing.)

For most folks, though, it goes the other way: As you get older you tend to neglect your teeth (one-third to one-half of adults in North America don't make their yearly dental check-up, and only 36 percent of women and 14 percent of men floss even four times a week), which is a big reason why 75 percent of adults have some form of gum disease.

When that happens, the health issues aren't just in your mouth. Gum disease increases the risk for kidney cancer by 49 percent, pancreatic cancer by 54 percent and blood cancers by 30 percent. It also ups the chances for type 2 diabetes and related complications, rheumatoid arthritis, impotence, memory dysfunction and Alzheimer's disease. There's still debate about whether it triggers heart disease; the American Heart Association says no. But we think the proof is out there. Clearly, you want to brush up on your dental routine.

Fortunately, we've got two smart ways to give your whole body a reason to smile.

1. Brush, rinse, floss. Brush your teeth for at least two minutes twice a day; floss once; and use a non-alcohol-based mouthwash (the alcohol may contribute to risk for oral cancer).

2. Opt for the two Cs: Crunchy foods (apples, celery and carrots are tooth-brushing wonders), and a cuppa tea (green or black -- both kill bad bacteria).

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to www.RealAge.com.

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