The Unexpected Benefits of Good Dental HygieneJessica Cohen
Have you brushed, flossed, and rinsed yet this morning? If not, I promise that you will want to after reading this post. If so, you will probably want to grab your toothbrush and do it again.
Good oral care is not just important for being able to flash those big pearly whites and for staying out of the dentist’s chair. While it is necessary for keeping those cavities at bay, it’s important to know that oral care is also absolutely vital to your overall health. Keeping your mouth clean and healthy substantially decreases your risk of developing complications and disease.
Growing up with a dentist in the family, it was instilled in me early on that brushing, flossing, and rinsing twice daily is super important, but I never truly understood the deep connection between dental care and our overall health. After learning more I will be darn sure to instill those same habits in my children from the get-go. Here are 8 reasons why you need to maintain good dental hygiene and why you too might want to get your kids in the habit of having a good brushing, flossing, and rinsing routine:
The Unexpected Benefits of Good Dental Hygiene 1 of 9
Guard against oral cancer 2 of 9
HPV has been in the news a lot lately, thanks to Michael Douglas and public conversation about the HPV vaccine. About 60% of oral cancers are linked to the human papilloma virus. In addition to sexually transmitted diseases, poor oral health is also a risk factor for oral HPV infection, and therefore could contribute to oral cancer. A research team studied more 3,400 participants ages 30-69, and those with poor oral health had a 56% higher rate of HPV infection. Additionally, people who had gum disease or dental problems had a 51% higher risk of being infected with HPV.
Reduce risk of head and neck cancer 3 of 9
One form of gum disease called chronic periodontitis is characterized by a progressive loss of bone and soft tissue surrounding the teeth. It is also a risk factor for head and neck cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma. When researchers looked at the relationship by tobacco use, they found that the association persisted even in people who never used tobacco.
Ward off potential esophageal and lung cancer 4 of 9
In another study, Japanese researchers found a strong link between tooth loss and an increased risk of three cancers - esophageal, head/neck, and lung cancer. People with tooth loss were 136% more likely to develop esophageal cancer, 68% more likely to develop head and neck cancer, and 54% more likely to develop lung cancer.
It is thought that bacterial infections and inflammation resulting from a lack of proper oral care is the culprit for both the tooth loss and the development of these cancers. And now to increase the ewwww factor, the rate of cancer increases proportionally to the number of teeth a patient has lost.
Lower likelihood of pancreatic cancer 5 of 9
As if the link between gum disease and cancer were not strong enough, here is one more for you. Periodontal disease, especially one that leads to tooth loss, also increases one's risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Researchers at Harvard studied more than 52,000 men over 16 years, to find out if periodontal disease might be related to pancreatic cancer. Men who had periodontal disease have a 63% higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer, and those who had periodontal disease resulting in tooth loss are at an even higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
Defend against heart disease 6 of 9
If all those cancers were not depressing enough for you, let's move right on to heart disease. A 2010 study out of Scotland found that poor oral hygiene is linked to an increased risk of heart conditions such as heart attacks and strokes. People who brush their teeth less frequently had a 70% higher risk of heart disease. Those with poor oral hygiene were also more likely to test positive for inflammatory markers in the bloodstream.
Lower risk of diabetes 7 of 9
Let's keep on moving right down the line of major diseases that are linked to oral care. Next up is diabetes. Diabetes and periodontal disease go hand-in-hand, as in each one could lead to the other. Those with diabetes are at a higher risk for getting periodontal disease, and vice versa.
Lessen stroke risk 8 of 9
Since they are interrelated, we could not bring up heart disease and diabetes without mentioning stroke, could we? Typically the two major risk factors for stroke are high blood pressure and diabetes. However, it is now known that gum disease makes it three major risk factors. In fact, periodontal disease carries a higher risk of causing a stroke than diabetes, and about the same risk factor as high blood pressure.
So, are you brushing yet?
Prevent preterm labor 9 of 9
Pregnant women are always told to make sure they take extra good care of their teeth during pregnancy for reasons like an increased risk of gingivitis, loose teeth, and gum decay during pregnancy. As it turns out, there is another, even more important reason. It is estimated that bacteria found in the mouth could be responsible for up to 80% of preterm labors.
As someone who delivered preterm (for an entirely different reason), I can tell you first hand that it is much better to take care of your teeth than to be watching your baby lie in an incubator in a NICU.
Source: Journal of Clinical Microbiology
Please note that this post is intended to share information and ideas, as well as to create conversation. Please consult a medical professional before making changes to your lifestyle.
Jessica also recently wrote:
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