The surprising health benefits of brushing our teeth
Posted by Medavie Blue Cross on April 14, 2022
Over time, we would learn how good dental hygiene reduces our risk of tooth decay and cavities, gingivitis, periodontitis, and tooth loss — conditions that can influence the way we eat, speak and socialize.
Yet even as adults, we may not realize how important oral health is to our overall health and our quality of life. Research shows some surprising health benefits of taking good care of our teeth and gums, even helping us to become smarter, lose weight, conceive a baby, save our lungs and live longer!
Stroke - The American Journal of Medicine reports that regular brushing decreases the chance of stroke.
Respiratory disease - Increased brushing lowers the risk of respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), found a study published in the Journal of Periodontology. The common theory is that harmful bacteria from the mouth can be inhaled into the lower respiratory tract, causing and/or exacerbating an infection.
Weight - Prevention magazine reports that regular brushing can help you maintain a healthy weight! That’s because brushing your teeth sends a signal to your brain that you’re done eating, fending off the urge to nibble on a snack or dessert. It has been suggested that brushing your teeth for two minutes, three times a day, can burn as much as 3,500 calories per year!
Heart attack - The American Journal of Medicine makes the connection between dental health and risk of heart attack.
Cognitive function - Studies show patients with gum disease could have lower cognitive function. In one study, participants age 70 and older with gum inflammation were nine times more likely to test on the lower end of cognitive testing than those with healthy gums and no oral health issues.
Dementia - Regular brushing can lower your risk of dementia, by as much as 65% according to a study published The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Conception - If you’re a couple that is interested in conceiving, you might want to check with your dentist. A 2011 study found that women suffering from gum disease took seven months to conceive, while those who brushed and flossed regularly became pregnant after only five.
Healthy babies - Dental research has also shown that having healthy teeth and gums increases the chances of having healthy babies. Many pregnant women are prone to “pregnancy gingivitis,” a mild form of gum disease, making it even more important to brush and floss regularly.
We turned to the Canadian Dental Health Association for their expert advice. Here are the CDHA’s 5 Steps to Oral Health:
Depending on individual circumstances, regular checkups may be every three, six or nine months. An assessment and cleaning can help identify and manage problems before they become serious.
Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss once or more. Flossing helps to remove food and plaque lodged between the teeth and gums, reduces bad breath, and helps prevent gum disease.
Sugar is a major cause of dental problems, allowing harmful bacteria to multiply and form plaque. It's advised to brush your teeth after consuming sugary drinks and food or better still, make water your drink of choice. Dental-friendly foods include fruits and vegetables, which are high in calcium, such as dark leafy greens, and will help to lower the acid buildup in the saliva that can lead to breakdown of tooth enamel.
Gum disease (periodontal disease) is the most common cause of tooth loss. Warning signs include bad breath, sensitive gums, which are red, sore, shiny or swollen, and gums which bleed after brushing or flossing.
Also check for warning signs of oral cancer, which normally appear on the sides or floor of the mouth, and on the lower side of the tongue.
Oral cancer warning signs include:
Using tobacco (chewing or smoking) can cause minor problems from bad breath and teeth staining to major health concerns including heart disease, oral cancer and other cancers.
April is Oral Health Month. Mark the occasion by following the expert advice above and applying those lessons you learned when you were a youngster. When it came to our oral health, our mothers (and fathers) really did know best.