View from inside the mouth looking out at dentist holding magnifying glass with text overlay: It's Not Just About the Pearly Whites....Oral Health and Wellness

It’s Not Just About the Pearly Whites….Oral Health and Wellness

I hate going to the dentist! Luckily, I have a dentist and hygienist who don’t take offense to that. As much as I dislike the process of getting my teeth cleaned, I know how important it is, not just for our oral health but for our overall health as well. Our dental health may impact our wellness in more ways than we realize.

Did you know that poor oral health has been linked to endocarditis (infection of the inner lining of heart chambers or valves), cardiovascular disease, pregnancy and birth complications, and pneumonia? (1) That’s kinda scary, isn’t it?

What’s the Connection?

The link is — you may have already guessed it — bacteria. According to the American Dental Association, (2)

The mouth is filled with countless bacteria, some linked to tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. Researchers have found that periodon- titis (the advanced form of periodontal disease that can cause tooth loss) is linked with other health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and bacterial pneumonia. Likewise, pregnant women with periodontitis may be at increased risk of delivering preterm and/or low-birth-weight infants.

https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Publications/Files/patient_61.ashx

Fortunately for us, our bodies’ normal defenses and good oral hygiene usually keep those nasty little critters at bay. If, however, we don’t take good care of our oral health, we can experience bacterial overgrowth. This can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

When we have advanced gum disease, such as Periodontitis, the bacteria can get into our bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body. That’s when it causes the trouble we talked about earlier. In addition to the problems already mentioned, “intense gum inflammation…also affects the bloodstream, and is believed to slowly damage blood vessels in the heart and brain over a long period of time.” (3)

On the Flip Side

We’ve talked about how our oral health can affect other aspects of our wellness, but what about how some health conditions affect our oral health?

Some conditions that may affect our oral health are:

Diabetes. Because diabetes reduces our resistance to infection, it can cause us to be more likely to have gum disease. This is a two-edged sword, because gum disease makes it harder to keep blood sugar under control.

HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS can cause painful mouth sores (mucosal lesions).

Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis reduces Bone Mineral Density, which means that it can cause us to lose bone in our jaw. It can also cause us to lose teeth. Some of the drugs used to treat Osteoporosis come with their own set of problems.

Alzheimer’s Disease. As Alzheimer’s progresses, oral health declines. (1)

Autoimmune diseases, such as Sjögren’s, that cause dry mouth. Many medications can also cause dry mouth. Not having enough saliva can cause a number of dental problems. If you have issues with this, let your doctor know. There are now mouth rinses specifically to help with this issue. Chewing sugar free gum may also help.

This all sounds pretty scary, but the good news is that taking care of our oral health is pretty simple.

Protecting Our Oral Health

We can protect our oral and overall health with just a few simple actions:

Brush twice daily, for two minutes, using a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. (4) I know many people have issues with using fluoride toothpastes, but this is the recommendation from the ADA and CDC. Of course, even if you choose not to use a fluoride toothpaste, brushing removes the debris and bacteria from teeth.

When I had to delay my six-month cleaning visit due to COVID-19, I got a Philips Sonicare toothbrush to make sure I was getting those pearly whites as clean as I possibly could. As I said, I hate having my teeth cleaned. I was afraid delaying my cleaning by four months was going to make it worse. This was actually one of the easiest cleanings I’ve had. (Yay!) I use my electric toothbrush once a day and my manual one the other time, just because my teeth can get sensitive if I’m not careful.

Floss daily to remove plaque between the teeth. You can use regular floss or another type of interdental cleaner.

See your dentist at least yearly. This is recommended even if you don’t have any natural teeth. Remember, oral health doesn’t just apply to teeth – it’s also the health of your gums and other structures of the mouth.

Don’t use tobacco products. These can increase your chances of developing issues with your teeth and gums. They can also increase your risk of developing oral cancers.

Eat a balanced diet, and limit snacks. This can reduce the chances of developing tooth decay and gum disease.

Taking care of our teeth isn’t just about keeping them looking good. Good oral health is vital to our overall wellbeing. I don’t know about you, but knowing what a difference those few minutes of brushing and flossing each day makes, encourages me to be diligent with it.

Did you know about the connection between our oral health and our overall wellness? How’s your relationship with your dentist? Please share!

Blessings,

~Terri

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Sources:

(1) https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20047475

(2) https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Publications/Files/patient_61.ashx

(3) https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/health-risks-of-gum-disease/

(4) https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/basics/adult-oral-health/tips.html

16 comments

    1. Ha ha! “Brush your teeth” IS something a Mom would say, isn’t it? I’m glad this reminded you about finding a new dentist. You don’t want to do like I did – not too long after we moved to the city where we live now, I broke my tooth when I chomped down on a popcorn seed. I hadn’t found a dentist yet, so I had to go see someone I hadn’t even met to fix my tooth. Luckily for me, there was an ad in the phone book for a dentist that said, “We Cater to Cowards.” I got lucky – my dentist was great and we’ve been with him ever since – but having a relationship with someone before that would have made it less stressful. Hope you’re staying safe and feeling well sweet friend! Hugs!

  1. Wow. Very informative. I just thought I brushed 2 x day and went to dentist 2x/year to keep my teeth. Thank you for doing all the research and sharing.

    1. Thanks so much Sarah! The “keeping my teeth” thing is definitely a good incentive to have good oral hygiene, isn’t it? I just read something that said our generation may be the first to go to the grave with our natural teeth. I’m not sure how true it is, but I’m hopeful I’ll be one of them….😊 Knowing our oral health can affect our overall health is even more incentive…. Sending love and hugs your way!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Mel! I have had to get used to using an electric toothbrush – I kept hitting my teeth with the plastic part of the brush head at first – but my teeth feel so much better after brushing. I hope your check-up goes great when you’re able to go back. My cleaning went a lot quicker this time, and I really do credit my Sonicare for that. Hope you’re doing well and keep up with your puppy. Sending hugs!

      1. I am trying to stay safe. Hopefully since we are already masked and social distancing, the flu season will be greatly reduced.
        Take care!

  2. Oh my God Terri, this post was so informative. Ironically, I am one person that has a fear of going to the dentist. Whenever health issues arise, I am quick to go to the doctor, specialist, optometrist, chiropractor or physical therapist…but when it comes to my teeth, I kinda let it slide. I had stopped going to my dentist when I got into college and after 20 years I decided to go to see one. He praised me for not having any cavities and having good a practice of flossing, brushing and usage of mouthwash but their practice pushed me into doing other things for my teeth that it dis-swayed me into continuing on. I went to another dentist but his personality was terrible. So I went to another one that was also trying to push other unnecessary cosmetic dental work. I finally gave up. Now, a decade or so later, my doctor is urging me to go see one on a regular basis. So I am now researching and asking family, friends and co-workers on how their dentist is and may pursue seeing one of them.

    1. Thanks so much Mark! I’m glad you found it useful. It really is important to find a dentist you like and feel you can trust, isn’t it? We’re lucky; our dentist never tries to push anything cosmetic and in fact, tries to find the most economical way to do things if we ever have any problems. I hope you’re able to find someone you like there. At least in the meantime, you know you’re doing the things you need to do. Blessings to you dear friend!

  3. Visiting your dentist is so important when you are on lots of medication. At thr moment when I go it’s like I’m in another world with the dentist all in their protective clothing.

    1. You’re so right Bar — medications can really mess with your oral health so we have to stay on top of that. Our dentist’s office were taking extra precautions too, which I was thankful for. Hope you’re doing well sweet friend. Sending a big hug across the pond!

  4. I’ve had some issues with my teeth, particular with small chips and weakened enamel as well as some inflamed gums, so I’m more conscious now of the products I use. I’ve always brushed my teeth regularly but flossing is something I need to do more of. I have started using interdental sticks/picks this year and those are so much easier than floss. I’m curious about the electric interdental cleaners though, they look pretty good. Keeping our gnashers clean and our mouths healthy is definitely about more than the pearly whites. It’s pretty shocking just how wide-ranging an impact dental problems can have on our bodies. Another excellent post, Terri! xx

    1. Thank you so much Caz, and thanks for sharing! I love my Waterpik, but I do also use regular floss as my teeth have tight contacts (I still have my wisdom teeth so my mouth is full 😂) The Waterpik seems to be great for my gums even if I can’t get between my teeth. It really is surprising how much our oral health impacts our overall health, and really, how so many of our bodies’ systems are interrelated. Hope you’re getting a little “breathing space” now and feeling better than you were sweet friend. Sending hugs!

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