There’s nothing like a bright, warm smile to make you feel like a million bucks. Is the appearance of your teeth important to you? Does the thought of leaving your dental office with a clean bill of health make you giddy?
Good dental hygiene boosts self-esteem and confidence, it keeps bad breath and unsightly stains at bay. But did you know proper dental care also protects your body’s overall health in surprisingly significant ways?
A holistic view of our body’s systems brings to light their interconnectedness. In dental terms, this means changes in your mouth directly affect your general health, and vice versa. By making small changes to your dental routine, and staying informed on the connection between physical and mental, you will be able to make improvements that will directly improve the two very important parts of your body, your mouth and your brain.
Inflamed gums, the most common sign of poor dental hygiene, initiates a build-up of excess oral bacteria. Periodontal disease — where gums eventually recede away from the tooth — can cause gnawing tooth sensitivity, and left untreated, has the potential to destroy everything from your tooth’s root to its supportive tissue.
But bloody gums and tooth extractions don’t paint the whole picture. Building research highlights varying links between gingivitis and advanced periodontal infection to several major health issues.
Oral bacteria travels through the body’s bloodstream and has the potential to alter cardiovascular function significantly. A build-up of bacteria in the arteries around the heart may result in arterial hardening or atherosclerosis. Plaque formation along arterial inner walls compromises blood flow and puts you at increased risk for a stroke or full-blown heart attack. Endocarditis, a potentially life-threatening condition, occurs when invasive bacteria cause inflammation and infection of the inner heart lining.
Bacteria from gingivitis and more severe dental disease may travel via the bloodstream to brain nerve channels, increasing one’s risk of dementia-related conditions like Alzheimer’s. A study in Japan earlier this year found that older adults are five times more likely to exhibit dementia if they’ve previously lost their teeth.
Specific mouth bacterias are currently being linked to cancer, especially pancreatic and esophageal. Elevated presence of noted bacteria in the bloodstream appears to comprise the immune systems’ ability to both recognize and kill encroaching cancer cells. On a hopeful note, researchers are also looking into the possibility of enhancing early detection methods by scrutinizing a patient’s oral health.
Harmful bacteria may threaten healthy respiratory function. Prevalent poor oral hygiene increases the likelihood of respiratory disease as bacteria is consistently breathed into the lungs through the mouth.
The link between dental care and diabetes appears to be more complicated than classic cause and effect. It’s more like a chicken-egg scenario. Reduced blood sugar levels lay the perfect groundwork for potential gum disease. Meanwhile, periodontal issues are likely to affect blood sugar levels. A surprising tool, therefore, for blood glucose control is mindful maintenance of dental recommendations.
Since childhood, we’ve been taught to brush and floss twice a day, use fluoride toothpaste, and see a dental professional every six months. An increasing number of toothbrush options and floss designs exist to facilitate effective implementation. The underlying philosophy remains: prevent tooth decay.
But did you know that teeth can remineralize? Like setting a broken bone so that it grows back in place, we can optimize our diet to not only maintain dental health but restore it. Drink plenty of water, incorporate dairy food items and opt-for high-fiber leafy green vegetables when possible. Even choosing to chew sugar-free mint gum can be beneficial!
Making small changes, and starting to implement them daily can be the trick to getting back on track with your dental health and, in turn, helping improve your mental health regularly.
Mental Health Care
In addition to taking these dental tips into consideration, it’s very important to take regular care of your mental health, as you would mind your dental hygiene daily. Things like journaling and meditation are known to help exercise your brain and calm anxieties. When we are stressed, our bodies directly reflect those feelings of distress.
If you’re stuck at a desk all day working, one way to help increase positivity and natural energy level throughout the day is to stand at your desk or take a quick walk over your lunch break. Small changes, implemented a little at a time can go a really long way with improving your physical and mental health connection.
The mouth-body connection lends both credence and strength to health goals in general. Maintaining a healthy mouth helps protect your body. And a healthy body depends on good dental hygiene.
Even if it’s not just about the smile, optimal dental health can still make you
feel like a million bucks.