ll archives: 5 Reasons to Care for Your Oral Health (That May Surprise You)

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You know the saying "The eyes are the window to your soul?" There's another window that's just as important. When dentists look into your mouth, they can tell at a glance what your health is like. How? If your teeth and gums are in good shape, you'll enjoy benefits like the ones below.

Your Pregnancy Will Be Safer

Planning for a baby? Pay your dentist a visit first. Otherwise, you might end up giving birth before 35 weeks. Some US researchers theorize that gum disease stimulates the production of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and prostaglandin — both of which induce labor.

Granted, those same researchers have yet to establish a conclusive relationship between pregnancy complications and periodontal problems. Premature birth has several possible causes, and poor oral health is only one of them. Still, if you'd rather be safe than sorry about having a child, keep your gums in tip-top shape.

Your Heart Will Be Healthier

Like the rest of your body, your gums are nourished by blood vessels — which lead to and from your heart. So when your gums get infected, where do you think microbes attack next? Yup, your guess is as good as mine — and Dr. Emil Kozarov's.

When Dr. Kozarov analyzed the arteries of people with atherosclerosis, he found traces of periodontal bacteria in them. In other words, the microbes that block your arteries and wreak havoc on your gums are one and the same. It's a scary thought, isn't it?

You Reduce Your Risk for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Want to predict your chances of having rheumatoid arthritis (RA)? Count the number of teeth you lost because of gum disease. No, really: That's what a study presented at the 2012 European Congress of Rheumatology found.

Previously, it was suggested that RA aggravated periodontal problems, either because of RA itself or the drugs used to treat it. But researchers studying the mouth-joint connection think it works the other way around too: When the tissues of infected joints and inflamed gums were analyzed, the cells infiltrating them seem to be one and the same. So if you want to be up and running even when you're old and gray, schedule regular dental cleaning sessions.

You Reduce Your Risk for Diabetes

Diabetes sufferers heal slower than healthy people do. This makes them vulnerable to oral infections and other ailments. But, as with RA, gum disease works in the other direction too.

If left untreated, periodontal problems can double your chances of having diabetes — even when you account for factors like age, weight and smoking habits. It makes sense: When oral problems are treated early, your body is less likely to suffer inflammation. And when that's the case, you're less likely to have diabetes too.

Your Lungs Will Be Stronger

Aside from the ones above, periodontal disease has also been linked to pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The bacteria in your mouth can travel down your throat and into your lungs, which worsen any existing ailments you have.

To be fair, more studies need to be done in this area. But if you're going to err, it's better to do it on the side of caution.

Now What?

We've delved into the "whys" of keeping your pearly whites important. Now, let's move on to the "hows."

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day, or after every meal.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Avoid sugary foods.
  • If you can't avoid eating sugary food, wait to brush your teeth for at least 30 minutes.
  • Otherwise, brushing off the resulting acid will also remove the enamel, which protects your teeth.
  • Change your toothbrush once every three months. Not only will this keep your brush working properly, but you'll also avoid infections from dirty bristles.
  • Know the right way to brush your teeth. If you do this, it doesn't matter whether you use a manual or electric toothbrush.
  • Don't forget to gently brush your tongue too.
  • Use floss to remove the bits stuck between your teeth.
  • Wrap up your routine by gargling antibacterial mouthwash.
  • Use the same mouthwash to soak and disinfect your toothbrush.
  • Dry your brush thoroughly afterwards. Bacteria are attracted to moisture, so you want as little of it as possible on your brush.
  • Store your brush in a cup, separate from your family members’. Also, keep it far away from the toilet, so that germs won't latch on to it.
  • See your dentist at least once every six months.
  • If you notice something wrong with your teeth or gums, tell your dentist as soon as possible.

Your mouth is one of the main entryways into your body, so take good care of it. Practice good brushing habits. Watch out for the latest news on gum diseases. When you maintain your health, and always learn something new about it, you can kiss the abovementioned diseases goodbye.