Everyone knows that to keep your teeth and gums healthy, you need to practice good oral hygiene and brush and floss regularly. It’s been drilled into everyone’s heads that if you don’t brush your teeth, you’ll end up with cavities and maybe even missing teeth.
But what may not have been drilled into your head is that your oral health doesn’t stop there. Failing to practice good oral hygiene could impact not just your teeth and gums, but your whole-body health.
Your Gums Open the Door to Disease
When you brush and floss, you’re doing your best to remove plaque before it can harden into calculus, which only your dentist can remove. Contained in that plaque are bacteria that can cause gum disease. Gum disease starts out mild, which is why it’s so easy to miss until it develops into something worse. In fact, around 30% of Australians suffer from gum disease of some kind.
Despite the tame early stages, if gum disease progresses untreated, it ultimately can lead to tooth loss. But tooth loss will sound like nothing when you hear that gum disease can also directly lead to heart disease. Luckily, treating gum disease improves heart health — and excellent oral health care could prevent it from being a problem at all.
Of course, heart disease isn’t the only risk your gums carry: There is even evidence that gum inflammation may contribute to the development and worsening of Alzheimer’s disease and neurodegeneration. And a team of researchers are Harvard even identified a link between gum disease and pancreatic cancer, and other researchers have linked it to several other cancers.
Making Oral Health a Priority
Unfortunately, many people treat oral health as a completely separate animal from their overall health. Those who care deeply about avoiding lifestyle choices that could put them at risk of heart disease or cancer may still slack on their oral hygiene. To truly safeguard your body from these life-threatening diseases, your oral health needs to be protected.
Luckily, practicing good oral healthcare isn’t terribly challenging. Really, all it requires is getting into a few good habits. First, the habit of brushing your teeth twice a day. If you make toothbrushing the first thing you do when you get up and the last thing you do before you go to sleep, you’ll be doing your teeth and gums a favor. You should brush gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste, making sure to get along the gumline and around the backs of your teeth, too. But brushing alone won’t do it — you also need to floss, to get at those hard-to-reach places between the teeth where your toothbrush can’t go. Flossing should be done once daily.
No matter how good your at-home oral hygiene practices, you can’t do it alone. It’s also imperative that you see a dentist for regular check ups and cleanings. Your dentist can not only provide a more thorough cleaning than you can perform at home, but can also check your signs of gum disease, tooth decay, and oral cancer.