Flossing protects me from dementia and heart attacks, says DR MICHAEL MOSLEY

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Like most people, I brush my teeth every day. But flossing? It’s a bit tedious. Hence, I suspect, why just a third of us do so regularly. And a third of the population admit to never flossing at all. 

I was in this group until, a few years ago, I read a research article suggesting that flossing not only reduces the risk of gum disease, but might also cut my risk of having a heart attack.

So, I began to floss every night. My enthusiasm for flossing has been boosted by recent studies suggesting that it is not only good for your gums and your heart, but could also cut your risk of dementia.

So what links oral health to these diseases? The answer is inflammation. The same bacteria that causes the gums to become swollen and sore may also travel through the blood into other organs, where they cause damage over time.

The inbetweener: Dr Michael Mosley goes through his flossing routine, to reduce harmful inflammation. Unless plaque is removed by brushing and flossing, the bacteria in the plaque will create acid that destroys the enamel of your teeth. It also produce toxins, which the immune system responds to, causing inflammation

The inbetweener: Dr Michael Mosley goes through his flossing routine, to reduce harmful inflammation. Unless plaque is removed by brushing and flossing, the bacteria in the plaque will create acid that destroys the enamel of your teeth. It also produce toxins, which the immune system responds to, causing inflammation

It is currently a very hot topic in medical research – so hot that last week I gave a talk at a big conference in Sydney, Australia, devoted to the subject.

A quick, informal survey I did of the scientists who were there showed that the majority floss. And one reason the scientists I spoke to at this conference were so keen on it is that it is a proven way to reduce inflammation.

The link to bacteria in gums and Alzheimer’s

Inflammation is something we are all familiar with. If you cut your finger, your immune system mobilises and sends white cells off to the area to attack and destroy any incoming harmful microbes.

As part of this response, you see redness, swelling, and feel pain around the injury site.

Acute inflammation such as this is absolutely essential for our survival, as it creates an inhospitable environment that kills off invading bacteria, viruses and the like. And it quickly passes.

Chronic inflammation plays a significant role in diseases ranging from heart disease and cancer to dementia and depression. Some people argue that chronic inflammation drives ageing itself. (File photo)

Chronic inflammation plays a significant role in diseases ranging from heart disease and cancer to dementia and depression. Some people argue that chronic inflammation drives ageing itself. (File photo)

But sometimes inflammation, once triggered, isn’t switched off. Instead it goes on and on. It becomes chronic.

Instead of protecting you, your body starts to attack itself.

Chronic inflammation plays a significant role in diseases ranging from heart disease and cancer to dementia and depression. Some people argue that chronic inflammation drives ageing itself.

One of the things known to cause chronic inflammation is having a persistent source of infection, which keeps your immune system on high alert. And that’s where flossing comes in.

Your mouth is full of billions of bacteria, most of which are harmless. Some, however, combine with leftover bits of food to form plaque, which sticks to your teeth.

Unless the plaque is removed by brushing and flossing, the bacteria in the plaque will create acid that destroys the enamel of your teeth.

It also produce toxins, which the immune system responds to, causing inflammation.

What starts off as inflammation of the gums, also known as gingivitis, can go on to become periodontitis – chronic infection of the tissues that support the gums. This can, in turn, result in destruction of bone. 

But that’s not the end of the story, because if you have lots of those harmful bacteria in your mouth then there is a risk that some will escape into your blood and travel round your body via your circulation, causing further damage.

As I mentioned earlier, we’ve known for some time that there is a link between infection of your gums and damage to arteries and to your heart. Numerous studies have shown that

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