Why Your Oral Health is About So Much More Than Your Smile
Maybe you’re not the most consistent flosser. Or, let’s be honest: you’re not a flosser, period; it’s a hassle that’s fallen entirely off your daily to-do list. And maybe you could be a bit better about brushing those back teeth. But who has the time, right? And sure, you skipped your last checkup, but aren’t cavities a kid problem?
The reality is, your oral health matters more than you might realize. Proper dental hygiene and care isn’t just about maintaining a sparkling smile—though that’s certainly an important bonus. The state of your oral health can reveal a lot about your overall wellness. That means that even if you’re sipping kale juice and hitting the gym, your health could be in jeopardy if you’re ignoring your mouth.
Blame the Bacteria
You probably don’t fancy yourself a bacterial stomping ground, but the truth is, most areas of your body are teeming with tons of tiny microscopic critters. And most of these germs are harmless and kept in check thanks to your natural defenses and proper hygiene. But if you start slacking on brushing and flossing, you give those germs the opportunity to grow out of control. This can cause all kinds of not-so-fun complications like tooth decay and gum disease.
Beyond these oral health snafus, studies also suggest that the inflammation associated with periodontitis (a severe form of gum disease) could up your odds of developing certain diseases involving your heart. Endocarditis, for example, is an infection of the heart’s inner lining, and it can happen when germs from another part of your body (yes, including your mouth) spread through your bloodstream.
And if you have a chronic condition like diabetes, osteoporosis, or HIV/AIDs, your body’s natural defenses may already be off, setting you up for even more intense oral health problems. The Mayo Clinic also reports that oral health might be linked to other serious conditions—including everything from eating disorders to head and neck cancers.
Finally, if you’re pregnant, oral hygiene isn’t just important for you—it’s essential for your baby too. Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight, so staying on top of your dental health is crucial.
How to Stay on Top of Your Oral and Overall Health
You may just want to hit the hay at the end of a long day, but before you hop into bed, make brushing and flossing non-negotiable rituals. Sure, it’s tempting to dose off immediately following a Netflix binge, but investing just a few minutes in your oral hygiene can go a long way in protecting your overall health. A few other tips to keep you in tip-top shape:
• Swap out your toothbrush for a new one every three months or as soon as the bristles start to fray—whichever comes first.
• If you’re a smoker, stop. Now.
• Incorporate healthy foods into your diet and keep the sugary snacks to a minimum.
Most importantly, set yourself up with a great dentist who can keep a close eye on your oral health and work with you to maintain your wellbeing—and your great smile.
Dr. Rimma Portman, DDS