Oral health and hygiene are very often put on the backburner, especially in today’s economy where even buying groceries demands a strict budget. However, many people don’t realize how much oral hygiene affects overall health and the plethora of things that could go wrong if teeth and gums are not properly cared for.
The mouth is full of bacteria, usually harmless; however, without proper oral and bodily care the bacteria can grow out of control. The body has plenty of natural defenses against such bacteria, and daily oral care like flossing and brushing help to reduce the risk of the bacteria getting out of control. Saliva and the mucous membranes within the mouth are a direct line to the rest of the body, so it stands to reason that inadequate or improper oral care will lead to an overgrowth of bacteria that can easily be transported into the bloodstream.
- Recent studies have shown a correlation between poor oral hygiene and major medical conditions such as:
Obesity (research is still ongoing, but preliminary studies showed that people who visit dentists regularly generally have healthier eating and exercise habits)
- Endocarditis (infection in the lining around the heart)
- Heart disease
- Problems in pregnancy. Inflammation and bacterial overgrowth in the mother can lead to premature birth and low birth weight
- Alzheimer’s disease
Conditions like diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and other immune diseases lower a person’s ability to fight off infections.
In addition to the above, stress plays a major role not only in overall health, but in oral health as well. It can lead to teeth grinding which causes jaw pain, toothaches, tooth damage, headaches, and ear discomfort. Teeth grinding can lead to gum damage and inflammation as well. Stress often causes people to chew on their cheeks, tongue, and lips, leading to mouth sores and open wounds where bacteria can thrive and grow. Additionally, stress lowers the immune system response, so the body’s ability to fight the bacteria is decreased.
Here are some simple ways to increase oral hygiene and prevent further medical conditions or concerns:
- Choose a good toothpaste and toothbrush that helps strengthen enamel and regulate the amount of bacteria in the mouth.
- Brush twice a day and floss at least once. Be sure to use proper brushing form, which a dentist can show you.
- Rinse with a therapeutic mouthwash.
- Eat a healthy diet rich in vitamins and nutrients that build the body’s immunity and prevent bacterial overgrowth.
- Replace toothbrushes every three to four months.
- See a TMJ doctor regularly for cleaning, evaluation, and education.
- Reduce stress levels.
- Take steps to reduce or eliminate teeth grinding. A simple mouth guard would suffice, but if not, ask your dentist for recommendations.