It is a conundrum many of us would have thought about at one time or another. Now it appears we are one step closer to the answer and all we have to do is count the number of teeth we have.
A new study looking into tooth loss and mortality has revealed the number of teeth we have is significantly correlated to our life expectancy.
Results found those with 20 teeth or more at the age of 70 had a considerably higher chance of living longer than those with less than 20 teeth.
According to Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of oral health charity the British Dental Health Foundation, the health of our mouth has consistently been a reliable marker for assessing the health of our whole body.
Dr Carter said: "Oral health indicators such as gum disease have regularly been linked to a wide range of general health problems such as heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, dementia and problems during pregnancy.
"Many oral health diseases (such as gum disease) are entirely preventable and are caused by poor oral hygiene. By taking good care of our teeth, not only will our mouth benefit but the positive changes will be felt by the entire body."
As little back as 1978, the first Adult Dental Health Survey revealed a staggering one in three (37 per cent) Brits had none of their natural teeth. That year the average life expectancy was 73 years old.
Today, as few as one in twenty (six per cent) have none of their natural teeth while life expectancy has grown to around 81 years old.
"It is never too late to think about how we care for our mouths. By making positive changes now we can help reduce deterioration of our health when we get older.
"Brushing twice-a-day with fluoride toothpaste, cutting down on how often we have sugary foods and drinks and visiting the dentist regularly, as often as they recommend will reduce our chances of developing general health problems and other diseases – as well as improve our smile."
The study was published in the latest edition of the journal of Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology. Before forming an assessment, variances for gender, body mass index (BMI), education, smoking status and history of chronic disease of the participants were all recorded and taken into account.