Your mouth is the gateway to the body and supports your overall physical and mental wellness. When we understand the fascinating links from head to toe, we’re extra motivated to protect and care for our teeth and gums.
You might think of oral health as just having a nice smile – and you’d be right! But good oral health is about much more than that. It’s about taking care of your entire mouth, including your teeth, gums, tongue, and lips.
These parts work together to form a system responsible for many essential functions. For example, your mouth helps you speak, chew, and swallow. And it also protects your teeth and gums from infection and enables you to digest food.
There are many ways our oral health affects our lives, but start by considering these 5 ways that oral health matters:
Teeth Support Healthy Nutrition
It’s easy to chew a nice meal without thinking about it. But teeth support the first step in digestion as they break food into smaller pieces. And enzymes in the saliva mix with food to help prepare it for its journey to the stomach.
Saliva is also packed with antibacterial agents that help protect teeth from decay-causing bacteria. If you’re missing teeth, you might not be producing enough saliva, making your mouth a breeding ground for bacteria.
Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults, but teeth can also be damaged from cavities, trauma, or nighttime clenching and grinding. Consistent daily habits, a low sugar diet, and protective appliances can prevent many of these oral problems.
Smiles Boost Our Confidence
Oral health is linked to overall happiness. A positive attitude and a healthy smile go hand in hand! When you feel good about yourself, it shows in your smile. Oral health is vital for children, too. Cavities are the most common childhood illness, and poor oral health or mouth injuries can lead to eating, speaking, and learning problems.
So, oral health is essential for our physical well-being, but it’s also critical for our social and professional lives. Studies have shown that smiles play an essential role in attractiveness, and smiles have even been linked to higher levels of achievement.
Your brain subconsciously takes in other people’s facial expressions and often reflects them back. So, you might see someone smile and unconsciously return your own smile yourself. The science is clear: Smiles are contagious! Positive reactions from others increase our confidence in social interactions, and it may take just a smile to feel a little bolder.
On the contrary, a missing tooth can significantly reduce our confidence. Anyone engaged in contact sports should consider a custom nightguard to protect their smiles. Many people are surprised to learn that basketball is one of the worst activities for mouth injuries, and many players fail to use mouth protection.
Oral Health Goes To The Heart
Dental disease is one of the most common health problems in the United States. It’s a problem that can affect people of all ages, but it’s observed primarily in children and adults age 65 and older. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 90% of adults aged 20-64 have had dental caries (cavities).
And it’s not just cavities that we have to worry about. Dental disease can also lead to more severe problems, such as tooth loss, gingivitis, and jaw bone loss. In fact, patients with chronic conditions are more likely to have severe or complete tooth loss, and people with diabetes with gum disease struggle more to control their blood sugar.
Did you know that gum disease has been linked to an increased risk for heart disease and stroke? Researchers believe that the bacteria that cause gum disease can also travel through the bloodstream and attach to fatty deposits in the arteries. This process leads to inflammation and an increased risk for heart attack or stroke.
Dental Problems Affect Our Wallets
However, it’s not just about appearances, good nutrition, and chronic disease. Oral health has a significant impact on our wallets, too. Poor oral health can lead to expensive bills, lengthy procedures, and long recovery times. Americans spend over $140 billion a year on dental care, even during the pandemic; and that number will only go up as the population gets older.
Researchers even found that people with poor oral health were less likely to be hired for a job, and those who did have a job were paid less. In fact, research has shown that oral health is one of the strongest predictors of long-term financial stability.
But there are ways to keep our dental costs down. Regular brushing and flossing, for example, can help prevent gum disease and other problems. And choosing a low-cost dental plan can help us afford the care we need without breaking the bank.
Don’t overlook the high costs of mouth injuries or uncontrolled clenching and grinding. A well-designed appliance can save thousands in unnecessary dental expenses. The cost of a single tooth injury can exceed $5000 in some cases.
So if you’re looking for ways to save money, be sure to put oral health at the top of your list. Your wallet, and your smile, will thank you.
Dental Wellness Supports Quality of Life
It’s clear that oral health is linked to overall physical, mental, and emotional health. Periodontal disease has also been correlated with other chronic health conditions such as respiratory disease and some forms of cancer.
The bacteria that cause gum disease can release toxins into the bloodstream, harming overall health through increased inflammation. Plus, poor oral health has been linked with decreased cognitive function, including memory and thinking skills.
Smiling helps us feel happier, even when we don’t start out feeling good. Even when we force a smile, it sends an optimistic signal to our minds. A smile can initiate the release of neuropeptides that improve neural pathways in the body and mood-boosting neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
Smiling works like a natural antidepressant that’s free and easy to prescribe!
Every aspect of oral health influences every other part of our system. For example, if we lose a front tooth and refuse to smile, a ripple effect can seriously undermine our quality of life. We may not perform well at work or in social gatherings if we have jaw pain from excessive clenching and grinding.
How Do I Protect My Oral Health?
The good news is that most dental problems can be prevented by taking care of our oral health. Essential habits include brushing and flossing every day, seeing our dentist for regular checkups, and eating a healthy diet.
But don’t overlook the value of an appliance to protect your oral health in ways that brushing and flossing can’t help. If you’re engaged in contact sports or activities, don’t go without a properly-fitted mouthguard to prevent expensive mouth injuries.
And if you’re waking up in the morning with frequent headaches, a comfortable nightguard may help protect your jaw muscles and joints from damage and pain.
Take care of your teeth and gums, and do your whole body a favor. The next time you think about brushing your teeth or leaving your mouthguard out, remember that you’re not just taking care of your pearly whites; you’re taking care of your overall wellness. And that’s something to smile about!