IT IS always the same vibe: the glossy, out-of-date magazines, the smell of sterilising fluid, the inevitable fish tank. Dentists’ waiting rooms aren’t much fun, and when you go through to the surgery, it only gets worse. The chair tilts back with an electric whir, the masked face says “open wide” and out comes an array of sharp, metal implements. No wonder many of us emerge rubbing our gums and wondering how long we can put off our next appointment.
But perhaps we need to recalibrate our relationship with our oral health, because there is a consensus emerging that looking after it might be the underappreciated secret to a longer, healthier life.
What matters isn’t so much having pearly whites per se, but looking after our oral microbiome: the viruses, fungi and 700 or so species of bacterium that reside in our mouths. Let our oral hygiene slip, and bad bacteria from there can travel all over the body, causing or exacerbating problems, from cardiovascular disease and cancer to Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis. Keeping everything in balance, on the other hand, staves off decline.
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Here’s the good news: now we are coming to understand the importance of the oral microbiome, there are things we can do to keep it in tip-top condition. That doesn’t just mean brushing and flossing, but could include new vaccines against gum disease and even bathing your gums in an oral microbiome replacement composed of…