Have you ever heard of the phrase “you are what you eat?” Well, it turns out that you are also what you drink, smoke, and forget to do in the morning.
Dietary habits, lifestyle choices, and countless other factors may affect dental and oral health. Why is this important? According to the CDC, around 50% of all 30-year-olds have some degree of visible periodontal disease.
That means a good amount of us aren’t actively engaging in proper hygiene. Oral diseases such as gum disease and tooth decay are some of the leading causes of preventable hospitalizations.
A severe lack of oral and dental hygiene can cause serious problems such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, kidney stones, gum disease, and cancer. But with proper care, dental health can help prevent many diseases and conditions.
If you’d like to learn more about how one’s oral health impacts your overall well-being, then read on. We provide a few reasons why you should take better care of your dental health.
Why Oral Health Matters
You may not realize it, but your teeth affect certain aspects of your life. They determine how you look, feel, and function, but more importantly, how your health plays out.
See, your smile is an expression of who you are. Often, it’s the first impression you give to people you first meet during job interviews or social circles. While missing or decaying teeth may just be a cosmetic issue on the surface, they may also be the impression you don’t want to give in formal settings.
But there are other dire implications. The other reason your smile matters is: your mouth affects your entire body.
For example, poor oral health can lead to chronic pain in your jaw joints, neck, back, shoulders, and arms. This can lead to headaches, muscle tension, and joint stiffness.
In addition, poor oral health can contribute to cardiovascular disease, respiratory infections, and diabetes. The bottom line is that your oral health can indirectly impact your physical and mental health.
The Importance of Gum Disease
Gum disease is an infection that affects the gums and bone surrounding teeth. This condition causes the gum tissue to become inflamed and infected.
As this happens, bacteria build up under the gum line, causing inflammation and swelling. Over time, these infections lead to tooth loss if left untreated.
Poor diet choices, such as a high sugar intake, can contribute to gum disease. Lifestyle choices mentioned before, like smoking and drinking alcohol, increases the chances of gum disease development, as well.
Those ailing with diabetes, heart conditions, or immune system disorders may be at higher risk of suffering from periodontal disease. As with most diseases, it can affect people of all ages but most commonly occurs in adults between 40 and 60 years old.
Several signs indicate gum disease has occurred. These include bleeding gums, swollen gums, loose teeth, and pain while chewing.
A dentist can perform routine checkups to ensure that your gums are healthy. Regular visits to your dentist can prevent gum disease from progressing into no man’s land called periodontitis.
Once a person has periodontitis, gums will begin to recede, severe bone loss occurs, and loose teeth may just fall out eventually. At this stage, treatment becomes even harder and less effective.
Preventing Tooth Decay
Bacteria live in our mouths all the time. Our saliva contains enzymes that break down food particles and keep harmful bacteria under control. However, if too much sugar is present in our diet, these enzymes become ineffective and allow bacteria to multiply.
Tooth decay occurs when bacteria get into your teeth and eats away at the enamel on your tooth surface. This causes cavities which lead to gum disease, infection, and eventually tooth loss if not properly treated in time.
If left untreated, the cavity will keep on spreading until it reaches the pulp chamber where nerves reside. The nerve endings in the tooth become inflamed and infected.
The infection spreads to surrounding tissue causing swelling, fever, and severe pain. Untreated infections may result in abscesses, bone destruction, and possibly death.
A Greater Risk of Diabetes and Heart Issues
Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 37 million Americans have diabetes.
People with diabetes often develop complications such as nerve damage, kidney failure, blindness, amputations, and heart attacks.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the immune system destroys the cells that produce insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce any insulin themselves. They rely on external sources of insulin to survive.
Type 2 diabetes develops when the body stops producing sufficient amounts of insulin. This happens when the body becomes resistant to insulin.
Both types of diabetes are associated with poor oral health. If you’re suffering from gingivitis, your blood sugar might be raised, leading to a risk of diabetes. And if you’ve got diabetes already, the increased sugar in your bloodstream could make controlling your condition even harder.
Around 610,000 people die each year due to coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease refers to the narrowing of the arteries that supply oxygenated blood to the heart muscle.
Coronary artery disease is caused by atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque builds up inside the walls of the arteries. Plaque restricts blood flow to the heart muscles, causing chest pains, shortness of breath, fatigue, and fainting spells.
Like diabetes, atherosclerosis is closely related to poor oral health.
Plaque accumulates in the gums and teeth. Over time, the bacteria in plaque break down the collagen fibers in the gums, resulting in bleeding gums.
Bleeding gums can irritate nerves in the jawbone, causing inflammation and infection. Infection can spread into the bone marrow, where it damages red blood cell production. Reduced blood cell production can affect the ability of the heart to pump blood.
Tips for Healthy Teeth and Gums
Preventing poor oral health starts with regular dental visits. Regular dental care helps detect early signs of gum disease and tooth decay. Early detection allows dentists to treat the problem before it gets worse.
Regular dental visits also allow dentists to remove tartar and clean your teeth thoroughly. Tartar is formed when food particles accumulate between the teeth and enamel.
Tartar forms a protective layer over the teeth, preventing them from breaking down. However, tartar can erode, exposing the soft tissue underneath.
Removing tartar prevents further erosion and reduces the likelihood of periodontitis. Periodontitis is an inflammatory disease that affects the tissues surrounding the teeth. It is characterized by deep pockets between the teeth and gum line.
Deep pockets trap food debris and bacteria, allowing them to infect the gum tissue. The bacteria then release toxins that destroy the gum tissue.
Brushing and flossing daily removes food debris and bacteria from your mouth. Brushing and flossing also stimulate saliva production, helping wash out harmful bacteria. Saliva contains enzymes that aid digestion and neutralize acids produced by bacteria. Flossing also helps dislodge trapped food particles.
Some people find it easier to use interdental brushes than dental floss. Others prefer to use dental floss. Whichever method works best for you, remember to brush and floss twice a day.
Avoid Bad Habits That Can Harm Your Smile
Here are some things you may be doing that can cause damage to your smile:
- Brushing too hard can lead to tooth sensitivity and gum recession. If you brush too hard, you can cause sensitive gums and an increased chance of cavities. Try brushing gently instead of vigorously to prevent unnecessary stress on your teeth.
- Eating foods high in acid levels can erode enamel and cause decay. Avoid acidic drinks and foods such as orange juice, tomato sauce, vinegar, and pickles.
- Too many carbonated drinks can cause enamel erosion and lead to tooth decay. Switch to water or unsweetened tea. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration, stomach ulcers, liver damage, and memory impairment. Limit your drinking to two drinks per night.
- Smoking cigarettes is also detrimental. Cigarettes contain chemicals that irritate your gums and can lead to inflammation. If you smoke, try your best to quit.
- Overusing mouthwash can dry out your mouth, causing cracks and fissures. Use mouthwash once or twice per week.
- Whitening products available over the counter contain harsh ingredients that can damage your teeth. Instead, go to your dentist for professional teeth whitening treatments.
Schedule Your Dental Checkups with Uptown Cosmetic Dentistry
At Uptown Cosmetic & Implant Dentistry, we offer the most comprehensive dental checkups available. We offer complete dental care, including preventive dentistry services like cleanings, exams, x-rays, and fillings.
Our office also offers cosmetic services such as veneers, crowns, and teeth whitening treatments. If you have any questions about your teeth or gums, we’re here to answer them!
To schedule an appointment with us, give us a call today or fill out our online contact form. We hope to hear from you soon!