What’s Good for the Mouth is Good for the Whole Body
Is chocolate your nemesis? Ice cream? Sugary soda? Think you can hide it from your doctors? Not from your dentist. No matter how we try to hide our guilty pleasures, our mouth tells the story.
“I can always see patients’ habits written all over their mouths,” says Dr. Daniel J. Deutsch. “I always tell them, diet trumps everything. Second is brushing and flossing.”
Dr. Deutsch, who practices “oral-health-equals-body-health” dentistry at Washington Center for Dentistry, in Washington, D.C., can see the effects of bad eating habits, especially when hard candies or sugary soft drinks are involved. He says dentists are trained to notice problems that show up in the mouth, such as nutritional deficiencies or systemic disease. Pale gums can mean low iron levels. Chronic bleeding can mean undiagnosed diabetes.
At the nexus of the oral health-body health issue is usually gum disease—which affects more than half of adults over 30. “Studies now show that gum infection bacteria can move from the bone around your teeth out into the bloodstream,” says Dr. Deutsch. “That means a possible transit to other parts of the body and medical issues. That’s one big reason we focus our hygiene cleaning program on keeping gum tissue free of infection, to prevent other problems.”
In fact, physicians and dentists now agree about a clear association between poor oral health and diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. One important culprit is the worrisome result of oral bacteria in the body: Inflammation. In addition, studies point to an association between oral inflammation and Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and rheumatoid arthritis. And it’s been long recognized that a mother’s oral health can affect birth weight.
As the standard of care now shifts toward this connection between oral health and body health, we can’t help but notice that treating our mouth well —has body-wide benefits.
With that in mind, as we move into the New Year, Dr. Deutsch offers a list of “healthy habits” to make 2016 the healthiest year ever—for your mouth—and body!
- Brush two times a day, the right way! – Most dental professionals recommend the electric model tooth brush. Brush for two whole minutes.
- Change your toothbrush every two to three months – Straight bristles do the best job to remove plaque and debris.
- Make sure your toothpaste contains fluoride with the seal of approval by the American Dental Association.
- Floss once a day. EVERY DAY. To get at the plaque between your teeth. “Disturbing the bacteria growing in those spaces every 24 hours—keeps them from forming armies to invade your bone!” says Dr. Deutsch. “Remember, there’s a connection between the plaque between your teeth and the plaque in your arteries!”
- See your dentist two times a year. The goal is to be in high-level oral health, so you will spend most of your time on prevention in the hygienist’s chair, not in the doctor’s chair. Unless you choose a treatment that is optional, like a new smile!
- Too much citrus or fruit juice can wear away enamel. Enamel is what gives teeth their pearly white color, and it does not grow back.
- Too much water with a low Ph level can also wear away enamel. Choose water with a Ph close to 7.00.
- Raisins and other dried fruits stick to your teeth supplying sugars that allow plaque to grow.