October is here and with it, National Dental Hygiene Month! When it comes to your oral health, we’ve got all the tricks and treats to keep your smile from being spooky. When you practice good oral hygiene, you benefit in many different ways. Besides having a beautiful, healthy smile, good oral hygiene offers several other, surprising advantages. Some of the benefits may seem obvious, such as fewer cavities, but others are not so well-known. Here are five of the specific benefits of taking care of your teeth and gums:
1. Less risk of gum disease
Gum disease (also known as periodontitis) is a severe infection that can damage the soft tissue in your mouth and harm the bone supporting your teeth. Symptoms include swollen or red gums, gum tenderness, gums that bleed easily, recession (gums pulling away from the teeth), pus between the gums and teeth, new spaces between your teeth, loose teeth, and painful chewing. The causes of gum disease include plaque or tartar on the teeth that you don’t remove regularly and inflammation.
Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontitis; it can be reversed with proper care, but untreated, it can lead to the serious symptoms of advanced gum disease. If you are diagnosed with gum disease, treatment options include non-surgical options such as scaling and root planing or antibiotics as well as surgical intervention. You can do a lot to prevent gum disease, such as brushing and flossing regularly, having regular professional teeth cleanings, and avoiding tobacco.
2. Remedy for bad breath
Bad breath, or halitosis, can cause significant social anxiety and embarrassment for those who suffer from it (and this marketing campaign from the 1920s certainly didn’t help, but it is interesting). It can make both personal and professional interactions feel awkward and contribute to existing social anxiety problems or maximize the chances of these types of problems developing. The good news is that bad breath can almost always be treated with good oral hygiene.
Brushing twice a day and flossing daily is enough for some people; others find that additional steps such as mouthwash or an electric toothbrush can help. However, other factors can contribute to bad breath, such as tobacco and pungent foods such as onions. Alcohol can also play a role, as it may dry out your mouth, leading to bad breath. If you have persistent bad breath, you should see your dentist to rule out underlying causes such as acid reflux or metabolic disorders.
3. Lower risk of heart disease
We’ve all heard that your oral health affects your overall health and the fact is, it’s true! Taking care of your mouth and keeping your regular dental visit appointments are important aspects that have a significant impact on more than just your smile. Your dental hygiene also affects your cardiovascular system – specifically, avoiding gum disease benefits your heart. Periodontitis causes chronic inflammation of your gums, and this inflammation can affect your heart over time. Unfortunately, it’s common for doctors to see patients with gum disease who also have blood vessel obstructions, high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks. Adhering to a proper oral hygiene routine can help keep gum disease at bay, giving you the best odds of optimal heart health.
4. Better memory
According to a 2013 study, poor dental hygiene may be associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. There have been past studies that link oral health and memory problems, but this was the first one to pinpoint specific bacteria in the brains of people with gum disease. These bacteria may play a role in the changes observed in the brain when a person has Alzheimer’s disease. It appears that everyday activities – such as not brushing your teeth and eating – can allow the bacteria to enter your brain. The theory is that, when the brain is exposed to bacteria from the gums repeatedly, specific subsequent immune responses can cause the death of nerve cells and, potentially, memory loss. That means that proper oral hygiene could also be essential for brain health.
5. Higher self-esteem
It isn’t hard to understand how poor oral health can negatively impact self-esteem. When you don’t take care of your smile, the result is yellowing teeth, cavities, and swollen gums. Poor oral hygiene can also lead to bad breath, tooth loss, and other problems that can have an adverse effect on your self-confidence. Having damaged teeth may even affect your ability to search for and land the job you want, not mention interpersonal relationships. When you have a healthy smile that you aren’t afraid to show off, it’s great for your self-esteem. It’s easy to see how regular brushing and flossing, as well as seeing your dentist for regular teeth cleanings, can all affect the way you feel about yourself and your overall quality of life.