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Brush your teeth to take better care of your… joints?

 •  • by Paul Ingraham

Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of PainScience.com: a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Close-up photo of a wide open mouth.
This is the strangest risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s I’ve heard of: gum disease? See Kamer. I looked into this a bit, checked some other sources, and I didn’t spot any red flags. In the paper itself, this jumped out at me:

“It is well known that periodontal bacteria, particularly in the presence of oral inflammation, gain access to the systemic circulation and can impact distant sites including heart, joints, and liver.”

Excuse me… joints?! So poor dental hygiene is a possible trigger for subtle systemic inflammation, and therefore a risk factor for all kinds of problems that drive pain.

And a potentially modifiable risk factor, no less. We don’t have a lot of those.

To be clear, while the existence of a mouth-system link looks cromulent, the details of causality are undoubtedly murky, and even if we had the risk factor nailed down, it would still be a long science journey to confirmation that brushing your teeth actually prevents systemic disease.

But we’re talking about dental hygiene here — it’s not like you’re going to waste your time taking better care of your teeth and gums. I go through cycles of diligence and apathy about flossing and brushing, as I am sure most of us do. Preventing dental repairs should be sufficient inspiration, but isn’t always. Knowing that it could be important to my general health, on the other hand, truly does boost its priority! Not that I neglect oral health all that much to begin with, but I could definitely up my game. I think I’ll go floss right now…

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