Happy New Year!
Whether you celebrated the New Year on Jan 1 or will celebrate the Lunar New Year at the end of this month (or – like me – you celebrate both because 2 parties are better than 1), the new year is a time for reflection, resolution, and renewal. It’s a time to evaluate our routines; to weed out the bad and nourish the good. Set the tone for the year to come with healthy habits, an optimistic outlook, and a great smile.
One of the easiest and best practices to affect your health and wellness is simply to brush your teeth. You might be surprised just how big a role brushing and flossing regularly can play in your overall health, and even in mitigating major system-wide wellness issues like diabetes and heart disease.
You are what you eat. We associate foods we eat with how healthy we are, but more often than not we look overlook the effect our diets and habits have on our mouths. Your mouth is a gateway, a portal between the world around you and the world inside you. There are 600 species of bacteria in your mouth right now. When these bacteria group together in a wet environment they start to create a slick, sticky biofilm we call plaque. The bacteria in plaque eats carbohydrates, transforming sugars, starches, and alcohol into acid that slowly eats away at your teeth. So a poor diet is directly linked to oral health, and vice-versa.
Fewer visits with your dentist can also prevent early detection of other serious ailments that can present signs and symptoms in the mouth first. Your dentist or dental hygienist can detect health problems ranging from oral cancer to systemic health conditions like osteoporosis, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease.
Your mouth is a gateway to your body and overall health – but your mouth is also a great environment to encourage bacterial growth and infection. Your saliva works to counter the corrosive effects of hungry bacteria, but saliva can only do so much. Your mouth’s only real defense is You. Dental caries, or cavities, is a transmissible disease. Poor dental hygiene can leave you prone to gum disease. These oral infections weaken the immune system in your mouth and can lead to infection in other body systems. In a compromised mouth harmful bacteria have access to the blood stream and the heart – even to the skeletal system if gum disease has weakened the gums protecting the jaw.
Hypertension, Diabetes, and Heart Disease
The link between oral health and general wellness isn’t always causal, but the correlations are strong. When a bacterial infection in the mouth goes unchecked (when we don’t brush), the immune system attacks the infection. This can result in inflammation in the gums and soft tissues in the mouth. Inflammation can spread to other blood vessels in the body, restricting blood flow and complicating blood pressure concerns like hypertension.
Inflammation also seems to affect the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. High blood sugar caused by diabetes feeds bacterial infections in the mouth, making the link between periodontal disease (gum disease) and diabetes a cycle – each ailment feeds the other. Fortunately, this two-way relationship means that improving one problem can help address the other.
The inflammation of blood vessels in the mouth can spread to other parts of the body, as can some of the bacteria that lives in the mouth. Different kinds of plaque live in different parts of the body, but plaque is bacteria grouped and stuck together by a thin skin. Oral Inflammation and bacterial deposits from the mouth can spread through the circulatory system and link oral health to heart disease.
Your mouth is a unique part of you. Unique in the character of your smile and uniquely sensitive to the balance and maintenance of good health. Good oral health and hygiene support wellness throughout your body. For one of the simplest and most cost-effective preventative care plans around, just brush, floss, and see your dentist regularly.
For a quick review of best practices for your teeth, visit our FAQ page.
You can also check me out on Facebook to see what fun things I’m doing or check for specials on teeth whitening and check-ups!