Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become progressively thin, brittle and frail. Most of us are probably well aware that osteoporosis can be a debilitating or even crippling. Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise, builds bone and protects against osteoporosis and frailty later in life. Unfortunately, only bone under stress seems to benefit. For example, runners, who carry their own body weight, tend to have stronger leg bones than cyclists.
Osteoporosis and teeth: keeping teeth strong
Fewer may be aware that osteoporosis can affect the condition of our teeth too. Osteoporosis can cause thinning of the bone material anchoring teeth. Keeping teeth strong may help prevent tooth loss and other dental problems.
Can exercise help in keeping teeth strong and health?
There is some evidence that exercise can improve or protect dental health. The only study found in a literature search of Web Of Knowledge saw less tooth loss among older Japanese men who exercised daily (Yoshida et al. 2001.) This doesn’t quite tell us enough, because of other variables that are also associated with more or less tooth loss such as hygiene, frequency of professional care, dietary habits and smoking. The study did not look at any exercise that might specifically target facial bone or jaw muscles. Few forms of exercise will target the bones or muscles that support our teeth (although some do manage to make an exception here. Look around and check facial expressions during heavy lifts). Still, the study indicates that exercise may help protect against tooth loss or weakness. It is important that jaw and facial bones stay healthy. If they degrade they will not be able to hold onto your teeth. Unfortunately, there has been very little research on exercise and tooth loss.
Is chewing gum good exercise for the bones supporting teeth?
Chewing gum may strengthen jaw bones and could protect chewers from tooth loss or improve the outcome of periodontal disease by providing exercise. Little work has been done in this area. The only chewing gum-specific study I could find was by a research team in Russia who studied the effect of chewing gum on bone density in 93 periodontal patients (Loginova et al. 2006.) Bone density in these patients increased on the active chewing side. For optimal effect make sure to switch your gum from right to left periodically. Goes for the rest of your training too. The full paper is available in Russian. Yoshida Y, Hatanaka Y, Imaki M, Ogawa Y, Miyatani S, & Tanada S (2001). Epidemiological study on improving the QOL and oral conditions of the aged–Part 2: Relationship between tooth loss and lifestyle factors for adults men. Journal of physiological anthropology and applied human science, 20 (6), 369-73 PMID: 11840690 Loginova NK, Veĭsgeĭm LD, & Churina SV (2006). [Influence of course use of chewing gum on alveolar bone density]. Stomatologiia, 85 (2), 22-4 PMID: 16710273