We all remember back in elementary school when the dental hygienist came to speak to the class about proper oral hygiene. Armed with baggies of free toothbrushes, toothpastes, floss and brushing charts, they told us all about the evils of the villain gingivitis, and the rot caused by too much sugar. The adage “Brush three times a day, floss at night” became common knowledge that many of us follow to this day. Or, try to.
Admit it, it isn’t always easy to brush after every meal. But we do our best, and we know the benefits to our teeth and gums well. What might not be known is that oral health can impact the rest of our body, as well.
Heart Disease and Diabetes…Your Chompers Matter
What causes heart disease and diabetes? Your mind probably went to bucket sized sodas, pallets of bacon, and mountains of cupcakes. But there is more to it than that, and you may be surprised to learn that your teeth are a part of the equation.
Studies have shown that people with gum disease, such a gingivitis or periodontitis are twice as likely to die from a heart attack, and three times as likely to die from a stroke. This is likely due to both conditions having links to infections and inflammation, both of which occur with gum disease.
As for diabetes, 93% of those with gum disease are at high risk of developing the insulin-resistant condition. On the other hand, poor control of blood sugar leads to gum disease. It is a vicious cycle.
What To Expect (From Your Mouth) When You’re Expecting
Pregnant women are more prone to experience gum and tooth issues during their pregnancy than most groups. They are at risk for:
- Gum and tooth sensitivity, including to hot, cold, sugar and salt.
- Dry mouth and changes in breath odor.
- Gum swelling and bleeding.
- Erosion of the enamel protecting the teeth.
- Gum disease.
Because of this, it is important women who are pregnant get regular dental check ups, just as they get prenatal exams. A dentist can direct them to special products and routines that will help them protect their teeth and gums through their pregnancy.
Put Out The Butt
The cigarette butt, that is. Smokers are some of the most at-risk people for diseases of the gums, and tooth damage. In fact, just smoking alone makes someone three times more likely to get gum diseases than those who don’t smoke. They are also more susceptible to cavities, sores and abscesses of the mouth, and of course mouth and throat cancers, on top of a myriad of non-dental conditions.
This also applies to those who chew tobacco, which can be just as damaging as smoke.
Chewing Food For Better Health
Even the way you chew can be impacting your health. When you swallow food without proper mastication, you limit your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and digest the bulk. Not only will you cause some stomach upset, but you can become bloated and constipated. You may also eat more, leading to weight gain and a heavy feeling that limits activity.
Soft foods should be chewed between five and ten times. Dense foods require more of a breakup, and you should be chewing at a minimum 30 times per bite. The harder the food, the more chews may be necessary. When you chew your food properly, you will eat much slower and enjoy your food more…it is an added benefit that makes it even more worth the effort!
Why You Want A Better Smile
Having bad oral hygiene habits can lead to inflammation and infection in the body. That can break down your immune system, cause additional health problems, and lead to more minor illnesses as well. Someone who doesn’t brush their teeth enough might end up getting ill more often, and no one wants that. Given that 30% of Americans aren’t brushing as much as they should, this is a spreading problem.
Beyond physical health, there is mental health. Everyone wants to feel confident in themselves. A bright, better smile and good breath can go a long way to boosting that confidence. When you feel better about your appearance and hygiene, it really shows. Something as simple as brushing and flossing more often can improve your entire life!
Quick and Easy Tips For Improving Your Oral Health
Oral hygiene isn’t rocket science, in either complexity or time/energy needed to maintain it. There are some extremely simple things you can do to make sure your mouth stays as clean as it can be:
- Watch what you eat. Too much sugar, and even too many animal products, can begin to eat away at your teeth. Not to mention damage by acid reflux caused by many fatty foods. Eat a balanced diet, with plenty of healthy foods that keep your body operating at full capacity.
- Use an electric toothbrush. These marvels are a great way to get more out of your brushing. They don’t cost that much, and you can get either disposable ones you switch out every few months, or one that lets you just switch out the head.
- Brush 2 – 3 times per day, for two to three minutes a piece. The days of going for one minute are long gone. We now know it is better to brush for longer, to really work out that nasty gunk lingering between the teeth. Make sure to brush along the gumline!
- Rinse with mouthwash. A mouthwash that fights bacteria that leads to plaque is one of the best things you can add to your morning and night oral hygiene routine.
- Floss every day. Get in between those chompers and pull out the food and plaque in hard to reach places.