Many years ago, some researchers claimed that gum disease could lead to heart disease. While the two may not sound related, scientists believe that the heart can be weakened by agents in the blood that respond to inflammation, and chronic gum disease produces constant inflammation. So flossing at least once a day is a good idea. Not only will it go a long way toward protecting your teeth and gums (and lower your body’s overall inflammation), it’s also just plain old good hygiene.
There’s no serious science to prove that one of the biggest regrets of older folks is that they failed to take care of their teeth and feet when they were young. But large surveys and personal accounts from people who spend a lot of time with the elderly tell us this is so. If allowed to deteriorate, teeth and feet will cause misery. Poor oral hygiene can produce terrible tooth decay or, worse, the total loss of teeth; not taking care of your feet can result in painful bunions, corns, warts, and other podiatric torments that make walking difficult, if not impossible. What’s more, the feet contain thousands of receptors that help you to gain information about your whereabouts—literally. Many of these receptors contribute to your sense of balance and ability to walk. A whopping one quarter of the bones in the body are located in the feet, demonstrating their complexity. And let’s not forget that together, our teeth and feet are major connectors to the world around us. We use our teeth to obtain nourishment and our feet to navigate our paths through life.
So don’t forget them. Visit the dentist at least once a year, twice if you’ve got a mouth prone to problems (your dentist can tell you that—he or she is a partner in your healthcare, too). Ask about proper brushing, flossing, and which toothpaste and toothbrush are best to use (and don’t forget to tend to the health and hygiene of your tongue—the only muscle in the body that’s attached at one end). The newer electronic toothbrushes might be worth the extra money if they prevent you from long, expensive stays in the dentist’s chair getting uncomfortable dental work done. As for your feet, splurge on foot massages once in a while if that’s your thing. Take note of weird-looking or painful growths or discolorations that emerge and do something about them. Buy good and comfortable shoes! Trust me, your teeth and feet will thank you later on.
From A Short Guide to a Long Life by David B. Agus, MD. Copyright © 2014 by Dr. David B. Agus. Excerpted with permission by Simon & Schuster, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.