From the time we were kids, many of us had parents who were relentless in their reminders for us to brush our teeth. Turns out, they were onto something.
Oral health, determined by oral hygiene practices, plays a more systemic role in overall health. In honor of the upcoming Children’s Dental Health Month and Gum Disease Awareness Month in February, let’s look at how oral health impacts general health and vice versa.
At ProFysio Physical Therapy, we appreciate a global view on health. Our doctors consider all aspects of our clients when determining a treatment plan specific to their needs and goals.
Oral Hygiene Isn’t Just Fresh Breath
Good practices can help keep breath fresh and ward off cavities, but the importance of brushing and flossing goes much deeper.
In a recent study, oral health was linked to physical fitness and performance. Poor oral health negatively impacted general fitness. Improving oral health may complement sports physical therapy, whether you are a professional athlete or someone who simply wants to stay active.
A report in the Journal of Dentistry found that physical activity decreases the risk of periodontitis. Periodontitis (gum disease) results in gums shrinking and teeth loosening.
Throughout scientific research, two words are often connected to oral health: bacteria and inflammation. The mouth is an entry point to both our respiratory and digestive systems. Bacteria in your mouth can travel to these systems and wreak havoc. What begins as tooth decay or gum disease may cause myriad problems, some with serious consequences.
Poor oral health can play a contributing role in the following conditions:
- Endocarditis. This inflammation of the inner lining of your heart’s chambers and valves is often caused by an infection. Bacteria in your mouth can travel through the bloodstream to the heart.
- Cardiovascular Disease. Like endocarditis, oral bacteria can travel through the bloodstream and contribute to other heart issues such as clogged arteries.
- Pregnancy/Birth Complications. Studies have associated gum disease with premature birth and low birth weight.
- Pneumonia. The lungs are also vulnerable to the bacteria in your mouth. The genesis of pneumonia and other respiratory diseases may be oral bacteria.
- Glucose Volatility. People who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels, making them more susceptible to diabetes.
Other Conditions that Impact Oral Health
The oral health-general health connection is a two-way street. Some diseases and medical concerns can also cause problems with oral health. Since diabetes reduces the body’s ability to fight infection, health problems in the mouth can become more serious in diabetics.
Decongestants, painkillers, antidepressants, and other medications prescribed to treat conditions can reduce saliva flow. Saliva is an integral part of oral health because it washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth.
Other conditions that might have a correlation to oral health include eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, and certain cancers.
Protect Your Oral Health
Fortunately, you can take steps to help safeguard your oral health:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each time. Don’t be too aggressive. Use a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste. Replace your toothbrush every four months.
- Floss daily. Flossing removes plaque and bacteria between teeth.
- Use mouthwash to remove food particles left after brushing and flossing.
- Eat a healthy diet. Limit sugary food and drinks as they have been shown to cause tooth decay.
- Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings. Your dentist will check for signs of cavities, gum disease, and other oral issues. See your dentist between cleanings if a problem arises. Don’t let a possible infected tooth fester.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking inhibits the body’s immune system.
- Exercise. Movement can help reduce inflammation and release endorphins into the body.
Improve Your Oral Health by Improving Your Physical Fitness
Exercise is a tonic that improves every aspect of life. Movement has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, strengthen muscles, fortify bones, enhance mood, and overall reduce inflammation. Fitness is now also linked to improved oral health.
If you are unable to exercise because of chronic pain or injury, contact ProFysio Physical Therapy. We offer a free consultation to learn more about our services. We have four convenient locations in New Jersey: Aberdeen, East Brunswick, Edison, and Old Bridge. Schedule your consultation by calling (732) 812-5200.