Studies have found that good dental health may help protect against a number of diseases, including cancer.

As it turns out, a healthy smile is not the only benefit of brushing, flossing and regular visits to the dentist…

Stroke prevention

Good oral health could help protect you from a certain type of stroke.

This is according to a study of acute stroke patients that found the presence of the oral bacteria (cnm-positive Streptococcus mutans) was linked to a type of stroke known as an intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH).

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Using MRIs, the researchers also found the presence of cerebral microbleeds (CMB), small brain hemorrhages which may cause dementia, to be significantly higher in subjects with cnm-positive S. mutans than in those without.

“The study and related work in our labs have shown that oral bacteria are involved in several kinds of stroke, including brain haemorrhages and strokes that lead to dementia,” said study co-author Robert P. Friedland, M.D., Professor in Neurology at the University of Louisville School.

Dementia and cognitive decline prevention

According to a review published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, some studies found that oral health measures – like the number of teeth, the number of cavities, and the presence of gum disease – is linked with an increased risk of cognitive decline or dementia.

Cancer prevention

Researchers in Finland and Sweden found that the same bacteria that cause gum disease also plays a part in the onset of pancreatic cancer.

In another study of 70 000 Finns over a span of 10 years, gum disease was linked to cancer mortality with pancreatic cancer having an especially strong link to mortality.

“These studies have demonstrated for the first time that the virulence factors of the central pathogenic bacteria underlying gum disease are able to spread from the mouth to other parts of the body, most likely in conjunction with the bacteria, and take part in central mechanisms of tissue destruction related to cancer,” said Timo Sorsa, a professor at the University of Helsinki.

Researchers point out that the prevention and early diagnosis of gum disease are very important not only for patients’ oral health, but their overall wellbeing.

Preventing pneumonia

Another study found that a twice-yearly dental check-up may decrease the risk of pneumonia by reducing bacteria in the mouth.

Based on a database of more than 26 000 people, the research found that people who never get dental check-ups had an 86 percent greater risk of pneumonia than to those who visit the dentist twice a year.

“There is a well-documented connection between oral health and pneumonia, and dental visits are important in maintaining good oral health,” said Michelle Doll, MD, lead author of the study and assistant professor of internal medicine in the Division of Infectious Disease at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond.

“We can never rid the mouth of bacteria altogether, but good oral hygiene can limit the quantities of bacteria present.”

So, when last did you visit the dentist? If you can’t remember, it’s time to brush up on your dental health and make an appointment.

Sources: Infectious Diseases Society of America,  University of Louisville, Wiley and University of Helsinki via

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.