The Link Between Oral Wellness and Overall Health
To a lot of people, visiting the dentist is all about maintaining that sparkling smile or eliminating pain and discomfort. So we get teeth pulled, we get a filling, or we get a cleaning thinking “I’m doing this for my teeth.” But have you ever stopped to consider that maybe your oral health equates to far more than just your oral wellness?
The Mouth-Body Connection asserts that keeping a healthy mouth can impact your overall health. If your mouth isn’t healthy, it can have a negative effect on your body, and if your body isn’t healthy, you’ll probably find symptoms of it in your mouth.
The Science Behind the Connection
What evidence do we have to prove that there’s such a strong association between the mouth and overall wellness? For starters, it’s no secret that certain medical conditions can manifest through symptoms affecting the mouth.
For instance, red, painful blisters inside the mouth can be indicative of a range of different medical conditions. That’s why visiting your dentist regularly opens up the opportunity of discovering an illness or disease you probably didn’t even know you had. The use of certain medications has also been known to impact oral health. For example, drugs that cause dry mouth can increase the risk of tooth decay and yeast infections.
When your body is battling an illness, especially an infection, it becomes easier for you to develop different kinds of oral infections as well. That’s because as your immune response is weakened by the foreign invaders, the natural flora of bacteria present in your mouth becomes stronger, rising to overwhelming numbers and heightening the risk for infection.
Okay, so it’s pretty clear that overall health can manifest and impact the mouth, but what about vice versa? There are lots of evidence-based studies that show how oral health can also affect your overall wellness. For example, for many people with diabetes, developing an oral infection of any kind can be detrimental to their health, making it much harder to manage their blood sugar levels.
Similarly, research also suggests that oral health might actually increase the risk for a range of other medical conditions, like stroke, heart disease, premature births, and kidney disease. The most prominent link to these conditions is periodontal disease, or conditions affecting the gums.
Because 50% of the population suffers from some form of gum disease, public health specialists assert that it might be beneficial to include oral care in basic medical treatment and management in order to curb the incidence of the conditions associated with poor gum health.
Applying the Mouth-Body Connection in Your Oral Care Routine
So now that we know how important oral health is in the plight towards achieving optimal overall wellness, what can we do about our Mouth-Body Connection? Well, if you want to leverage this new knowledge to help you address your overall health by way of your mouth and vice versa, try applying these tips at home.
- Keep ‘Em Clean – Well, you probably already knew that, didn’t you? But before you move on to tip number two, this means to keep them clean as often as possible. Our dentists tell us to brush our teeth three times a day, but that really depends on how you use your teeth in general.
For instance, if you like drinking a cup of coffee in the early afternoon after you’ve already brushed away remnants from lunch, then you’re basically leaving the coffee residue to sit on your teeth until you can brush later in the evening.
Unfortunately, that window of opportunity can mark the start of decay. Keep your teeth clean by dry brushing after any food intake, or by chewing on gum with natural sweeteners or xylitol to encourage remineralization.
- Optimize Your Diet – Aside from eating healthy foods that encourage whole-body wellness to impact your oral health, it also pays to eat food that directly impacts your teeth. Certain foods encourage remineralization, which strengthens your teeth and gums against a host of potential threats you might encounter.
Foods rich in Vitamins D, K2, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium are all great choices to stave off cavities and tooth decay. On the other hand, foods that are high in simple starches and phytic acid, like lentils and sugar, can speed up decay and, thus, negatively impact your overall health.
- Pay Your Friendly Neighborhood Dentist a Visit – Your dentist knows. Because lots of conditions will manifest in the mouth before they’re full-blown, dentists are in a position that makes them more capable of detecting disease in its earlier stages.
Visiting your dentist regularly doesn’t only improve your oral health but also sheds light on symptoms in your mouth that might be pointing to something more serious. If your dentist ends up finding something that might be a cause for concern, you can expect them to give you a referral to a doctor that can help treat the problem they’ve detected.
- Stimulate Your Gums – A good, old-fashioned gum massage can help you improve the blood flow to your gums, increasing oxygen concentration and micronutrient distribution in the tissues. This can help reduce the risk of periodontal disease, which is heavily linked to other medical conditions.
To perform a gum massage, use your clean fingers to firmly stroke and press the tissues. Avoid snagging them with your nails, and make sure you perform the process after brushing your teeth. If you want to go the extra mile with your Mouth-Body Connection, you can purchase a gum stimulator to help optimize the process and improve the results you get out of it.