Fitness Facts: Oral health
By Connie Colbert
Director, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic
Did you know that brushing and flossing every day can help prevent disease in the rest of your body?
Improving your oral health can prevent tooth decay and gum disease. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, “oral diseases have been linked to diabetes, heart disease and stroke.”
Conversely, your oral health also can be a reflection of the overall health of your body. For instance, if you already have a chronic condition such as diabetes, you are at a greater risk for oral disease, such as gingivitis, oral yeast infections (thrush) and mouth ulcers.
Like many areas of your body, harmless bacteria are present in your mouth. With our normal body defenses and good hygiene these bacteria are kept at bay, but a few factors may compromise our oral health and allow the harmless bacteria to become harmful.
Some of these include:
- Poor oral hygiene leading to a buildup of bacteria
- Medications that decrease saliva (such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers and antidepressants). Saliva is essential for washing away food and acids produced by bacteria. A consistently dry mouth makes you more susceptible to tooth decay.
- Conditions that affect the immune system allow bacteria to grow more easily
According to Mayo Clinic.org, these conditions have been linked to poor oral health:
- Endocarditis: an inflammation of the inner lining of your heart
- Cardiovascular disease: Some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause
- Periodontitis: has been linked to low birth weight and premature birth
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Head and neck cancers
So to protect your overall health …
- Brush your teeth at least twice daily with fluoride toothpaste
- Floss daily
- Eat a healthy diet and limit sugary snacks
- Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months
- Schedule regular dental cleanings
- Avoid tobacco
It is an investment you will not regret!