Protect your loved ones by learning about the mouth-body connection in this article by your dentist at Chisholm Trail Smile Center, Dr. Matthew Bridges.
Your mouth facilitates entry of external elements into your body. It makes perfect sense, but have you really thought about it? Everything you put in your mouth, from foods to fingernails to your own toothbrush bring either good or bad elements into contact with your teeth, soft oral tissues, and potentially into your stomach and bloodstream. We call this the mouth-body connection.
Your family dentist should explain the mouth-body connection and its implications. Why? Because the mouth-body connection has a significant impact on whole-body health.
“The mouth is a portal to the body,” says dentist at Chisholm Trail Smile Center.
Scientists discovered the mouth-body connection years ago and research continues to reveal new ways the mouth and body are intertwined. The bottom line is, your mouth is a portal to your body.
When bacteria in the mouth feast on starches inside the oral biome, they release acids that weaken tooth enamel so that cavities (tooth decay or dental caries) form. Tooth decay is present, at some point, in 99% of humans, so it’s important that you understand the importance of balance in the oral biome (the atmosphere in your mouth). Good and bad bacteria, as well as pH levels, affect teeth, gums, and whole-body health.
All humans produce plaque, a sticky matrix of bacteria, saliva, and minerals that clings to teeth. Plaque carries bad bacteria that build up on and between teeth. Plaque that is not removed by brushing, flossing, or a professional dental cleaning, can irritate gum tissue and lead to the development of gum disease, which is the main cause of adult tooth loss. Researchers link gum disease to conditions like:
- Heart disease
- Diabetes complications
- Low-weight birth
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
- Lung conditions
Furthermore, when the bacteria that cause tooth decay, called Streptococcus mutans, or simply S. mutans, enter the bloodstream through the mouth, a patient can develop endocarditis. This heart condition can be fatal if not treated.
However, if you practice good oral hygiene daily and visit Dr. Bridges, your dentist at Chisholm Trail Smile Center, twice a year for checkups and cleanings, you may avoid all of these symptoms and the destruction they cause on whole-body health.
Introducing outside elements to the body via the mouth has consequences. This listicle explains how specific elements affect oral and overall health.
Foods and Drinks
Avoid starches, including sugars, when possible. Certainly reduce your intake of sugars and bready foods, like breads, cereals, crackers, chips, and cookies. Foods and drinks with excessive starch feed oral bacteria. So, after you consume starches, thoroughly rinse your mouth with water afterward and don’t brush your teeth for at least a few hours. This will help your body re-establish healthy pH in the oral microbiome, while also hydrating and rinsing away bad bacteria.
Our bodies are 55-60% water, and without proper hydration, the whole body suffers. Drink pure water throughout your day. Avoid sipping on sugary beverages. Limit any drink other than water to mealtimes or drink them through a straw to reduce contact with teeth and gums.
Note that babies should only go to bed with a cup or bottle of water. Never put your child to bed with juice or milk. Babies and toddlers who fall asleep drinking anything but pure water, over time, may develop a painful condition called baby-bottle mouth syndrome. This condition involves severe tooth decay and requires extensive dental treatment to re-establish good oral health and reduce pain.
Tobacco and alcohol cause dry mouth. (Alcohol also contains sugar.) In turn, dry mouth allows oral bacteria to reproduce rapidly. If you smoke cigarettes or dip tobacco, ask Dr. Bridges for help finding a cessation program. If you drink more than a few glasses of alcohol a day, consider cutting back for the health benefits.
Some medications cause dry mouth, clinically known as xerostomia. If you experience dry mouth, purchase artificial saliva at your pharmacy. One brand, Biotene, comes in flavored spray, gel, and mouthwash. Keeping your mouth hydrated and salivated will reduce the amount of and reproduction of bad oral bacteria.
Pen Caps, Fingernails, Toothpicks
Chewing on items not intended for your mouth can harm your teeth and gums. Furthermore, they may introduce germs into the oral microbiome and into your body. If you like the feeling of chewing, consider munching on sugarless gum. It can freshen your breath and aid in saliva production!
Your Own Toothbrush
Flushing an open toilet literally sends germs into the air via water particles. Studies show that these particles can land on nearby items, like your toothbrush. It’s best to keep a toothbrush in a drawer or zipper bag, and to close your toilet lid prior to flushing.
Also, replace your toothbrush every 90 days or so, because when bristles soften and fray brushing becomes less effective.
Bacteria & Brushing
How can you get rid of bad bacteria and keep it from entering your stomach and blood stream? We need bacteria in the oral microbiome, but it’s beneficial to reduce the amount of bad oral bacteria. Daily brushing and flossing do the job
Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste (unfluoridated for kids under three years old). Floss once a day. Also consider using a tongue scraper to remove plaque on your tongue. An antibacterial mouthwash will help control the level of bad bacteria in your oral microbiome, as well.
Need a dentist at Chisholm Trail who will educate you and your family about oral health?
Call on Dr. Bridges, your dentist at Chisholm Trail Smile Center in Duncan, OK. Visit us online at www.chilsholmtrailsmilecenter.com or call 580-255-4880.