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From "You, An Owner's Manual," by Michael F. Rosen, M.D. and Mehmet C. Oz, M.D.:

Everybody knows the two primary things teeth are used for—eating and stopping hockey pucks. What may surprise you is that your teeth can provide clues into your health like virtually no other outward part of your body. Why? The biggest concern when it comes to aging and your teeth isn’t the presence of cavities; it’s the presence of periodontal disease, which can make you up to 3.7 years older. Gum disease (gingivitis) has been linked to many other problems, presumably because the same bacteria that cause periodontal disease can also trigger an immune response that causes inflammation and hardening of the arteries. That same plaque that causes tooth decay—that sticky coating of bacteria, saliva, and three-day-old cauliflower—can also contribute to the plaque in your arteries. And that has a profound effect on all kind of vascular problems, from heart attacks to erectile dysfunction. Here’s a telling fact: Many people in Great Britain don’t have regular dental care because it’s not provided free in the National Health Service. But when people in Great Britain go to the hospital with chest pain, they’re given an aspirin, a beta-blocker, and an antibiotic for gum disease—because doctors know there’s a strong link between the inflammation of gum disease and an aging and unstable cardiovascular system.

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