As we all prepare to return to school or work amidst a global pandemic, it’s more important than ever to do everything we can to keep ourselves healthy. Luckily, there are simple things you can practice every day to do just that.
In this blog post, we’ll review how oral health impacts your overall health, and I’ll offer some tips for how to maintain good oral health and keep your immune system strong.
Why is oral health important?
I like to think of oral health as one piece of the puzzle that is overall health. Consider this: your mouth is full of bacteria. In fact, there have been more than 700 different strains of bacteria identified in the mouth! The average mouth only contains 30-40 different strains, but still — this is pretty impressive.
Thankfully, most of the bacteria found in the mouth is the good kind, helping to digest foods and protect our teeth and gums. But there are some bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease, leading to oral and health risks later on.
How does dental health impact overall health?
- Heart disease
- Weakened immune system
- Respiratory issues
This link between oral health and overall health is typically tied to an abundance of bad bacteria in the mouth that causes damage to the teeth and gums. Left untreated, this bacteria escapes into the bloodstream, damaging other parts of the body. It can also weaken the immune system as your body tries to fight off the infection.
Two of the most common bad bacterias found in the mouth are:
- Streptococcus mutans. This bacteria causes tooth decay. It feeds on the sugars and starches in your mouth and breaks them down. This process creates an acid that erodes your tooth enamel, opening the door to further tooth decay.
- Porphyromonas gingivalis is tied to gum disease and causes destruction of the gum tissue surrounding the teeth.
I know these can sound scary, but with proper care and regular 6-month exams here at The Winning Smile Dental Group, we can help prevent and treat the effects of bad bacteria.
Simple tips to keep your mouth (and body) healthy
Brush your teeth twice per day with a fluoride toothpaste
This is one of the most tried-and-true practices for maintaining good oral health. And the reason is simple: brushing your teeth drastically reduces the amount of bacteria in your mouth and helps remove plaque build up from your teeth.
But you know that already, right? Here are some fun facts about brushing you might not know:
- Research suggests that brushing your teeth for 2 minutes can remove up to 41% of plaque on your teeth.
- Tooth enamel is the hardest part of your body. Think of enamel like a shell that protects the tooth. It’s made of the same thing our bones are made of, but specific proteins make it even stronger.
- Assuming you brush twice a day for 2 minutes, you will spend around 79 days of your life brushing your teeth.
I don’t know about you, but I was surprised to learn more than 30% of people report they never floss their teeth. While flossing isn’t always fun, it’s important because it removes food particles and plaque stuck on or between the teeth that brushing can’t reach. This helps decrease the amount of bacteria before it has the chance to build up and cause problems.
A few tips I like to share with my patients to make flossing a little easier:
- If you find yourself forgetting to floss, leave your floss right next to your toothbrush
- Try flossing while you watch TV
- Choose a floss that will work best for you. If you have trouble flossing in tight spaces or get frustrated when floss begins to shred, try using a waxed floss or consider a Waterpik
If your gums bleed after you floss for more than a few weeks, please get in touch with me or one of the other dentists here at The Winning Smile Dental Group.
Consider using a mouthwash
Using a mouthwash containing fluoride or essential oils is an easy and effective way to help fight gingivitis, plaque, and tooth decay.
Avoid overly sugary and acidic drinks
Sugary and acidic drinks don’t do your teeth any favors. Sugar present in the mouth encourages bacteria to break it down, creating enamel-destroying acid. That’s why it’s important to drink beverages high in sugar and acid — like sodas, fruit juices, sports drinks, etc. — in moderation, if it all.
If you simply can’t pass them up, I recommend 2 things. First, drink the beverage with a straw to minimize contact with the teeth. Second, wait 30 minutes or more after consuming the beverage to brush your teeth, which will help keep plaque from forming without the risk of scrubbing the acidity into your teeth.
Not only is staying hydrated great for your overall health, it’s very helpful to your oral health, too! Water helps wash away some of the residue left behind by food or beverages that cavity-causing bacteria loves. Plus, it helps water down the acid produced by the bacteria in your mouth.
Maintain a balanced diet
If your body lacks the nutrients it needs, research has shown that your mouth will have a more difficult time fighting off infection. Make sure you are eating foods high in calcium and protein, as this helps strengthen teeth. Additionally, crunchy foods like carrots or apples, especially when eaten at the end of a meal, increase the amount of saliva in the mouth. Saliva helps wash away bacteria and food particles as you eat.
Smoking weakens the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off the infection stemming for periodontitis, or gum disease.
Don’t skip your 6 month dental exams
Even if you do all the steps above every day, there will still be plaque you can’t reach on your own. That’s where we come in! When you come into one of our Mississippi offices for your regular 6-month cleaning, our hygienist will remove any plaque build up. Then, I or one of our other doctors will examine your teeth thoroughly to diagnose or prevent any issues.
We’re here for you!
As we enter into the busy back-to-school season (whether kids are studying from home or in the classroom) and continue to deal with COVID-19, know that our entire team is here for you. We’re dedicated to helping you achieve a healthy smile that not only benefits your mouth, but your overall well being.
Schedule your appointment today!
Dr. Pambianchi is a graduate of Delta State University and the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry. He went on to complete a residency in advanced education in general dentistry from the University of Mississippi Medical Center. His focus is on providing expert care that contributes to the overall wellbeing of his patients.