Oral health as the gateway to your overall health
There are areas of our bodies that we focus on more and there are area’s we tend to forget. When you take a shower, do you remember to wash behind your ears or in between your toes? And how is it with your mouth, do you spend enough time to keep up with your oral health? You definitely should! The mouth is called ‘the gateway to your overall health’ and that’s for a good reason.
Why is the mouth so important?
If you think of ways bacteria and viruses can enter our body, we have a few obvious areas; the mouth, the nose or through our skin, especially if you have a wound somewhere. To protect us from those invaders, we have our skin to shield our insides and nose hairs to block unwanted visitors. However. there’s no such thing with the mouth, it’s sort of a gaping hole if you think about it. That’s why it’s not that strange that it’s an important part of our health.
Many people think oral health is just about the teeth, but there’s a lot more involved. It’s about teeth, gums, the soft and hard palate, the lining of the mouth and throat, the tongue, the lips, the salivary glands, the chewing muscles, and the upper and lower jaws. Deeper within the body, you also have the blood vessels in your mouth and the nerves.
The mouth has a strong connection to the brain as well, it’s no wonder that during a cerebral infarction, the mouth shows almost immediate signs. The brain works really hard on making the mouth as healthy as possible and when something is wrong, you’ll often see it in the mouth in some way. But the other way around is also possible for the mouth to harm the brain. When you have certain bacteria in your mouth that are related with gum disease and you brush your teeth, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream. When these bacteria reach the brain repeatedly, the brain tries to fight it, but it’ll often cost you braincells. Pretty intense, right?
What is good oral hygiene?
Now that we know how important oral health is and what actually is included when using the word oral, we have to talk about how to maintain good oral health. Let’s start off by saying that I am a psychologist, not a dentist or an oral doctor, so when there’s a problem, go to them! They can see what is wrong and help you appropriately. This post will just focus on the basics of oral care.
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day! When you go to bed, you have all those things you ate between your teeth and maybe some particles on your tongue, so that’s a really important moment to brush it all off. This way, you won’t inhale the bacteria coming from that at night and you won’t develop tartar. When you wake up, you will have probably accumulated a lot of stuff in your mouth, especially if you sleep with your mouth open, even if it’s just a bit. When you’ll eat something, those bacteria will go right in with your breakfast. Also, it just helps with the smell of your breath, which is better for everyone around you as well.
- Brush it good! I know, it’s not the most thrilling part of your day, but brushing your teeth well helps a lot to prevent plaque and early gum-disease. So, you might want to invest in an electric toothbrush and a good toothpaste. If you have those, make sure you brush every nook and cranny. The rule of thumb is to brush for about 2 minutes, which leaves you roughly 30 seconds per quarter. That’s not so long, is it? Make sure you don’t brush too hard. Make it a slow, soft, circling motion instead, to make sure all the dirt is gone. When you’re done, take some time to also brush your tongue, it probably caries many bacteria as well!
- Aaaaand flush. When you’ve had all the corners, wash your mouth with a sip of water. Make sure you flush all throughout your mouth, so no toothpaste or dirt is left. You are creating certain tensions with your tongue and jaws, which will distribute the water with quite some force, so it’ll take a lot with it. You can also take a second sip afterwards to wash out the back of your throat to make sure you got it all.
- Those annoying things stuck between your teeth need to go, even if you don’t notice them. When our teeth are closer together, little parts of food can become stuck between your teeth or under the gum. When that happens, it’s hard to remove it just by brushing, which is why we’ve developed toothpicks. Of course you have the wooden ones, but you need to be careful not to hurt healthy tissue, so I prefer the plastic, curved ones with the little teeth (these). I know it’s not the most sustainable option, but the importance of clean teeth outweighs this for me personally. It can however be with both that you’ll bleed a little after using either one of them the first few times. This is a sign of Gingivitis, which means there are bad bacteria in your mouth and you need to discuss this with your dentist. Flossing is still important in this case though, so just continue. Flossing once a day should be enough though, so I’d recommend doing that in the evening only.
- Mouthwash. It’s a somewhat more difficult topic when it comes to oral health, because there are some downsides to mouthwash. As mentioned, your mouth contains bacteria. The ones we want to kill are obviously the bad ones, but there are also many good bacteria that help to keep our mouth healthy. Mouthwashes are super intense cleansers. They are great to wash out areas that are hard to reach when brushing or flossing, like in the back of your mouth or behind the teeth in the back, but they kill all bacteria, not just the bad ones. Therefore, you probably shouldn’t use too much mouthwash. Since I brush well, floss and my teeth are relatively far apart, I tend to use mouthwash only about two to three times a week. This gives my mouth a thorough cleanse, but still leaves enough time for the healthy bacteria to come back and do their job.
- Throughout the day, you can also take care of your oral health. Some things are very bad for it, like smoking, acidic and sugary drinks and foods, and too much mushy food. It’s therefore wise to avoid those in too large quantities. Also, coffee and tea have been known to create some plaque. However, tea and coffee have some important health benefits. My dentist therefore recommended that after a glass of tea or coffee, I’d flush my mouth with some water. This really helps to reduce the negative effects, whilst keeping the benefits. On top, it helps me to drink more water, which is never a bad idea.
- How about chewing? Some researchers looked into the importance of chewing. For instance, some studies have looked at the relationship between chewing and our memory. Although this is not super conclusive yet, there are indications that chewing helps with memory retention. On top, chewing signals to the brain that food is coming, so it can prepare. Therefore, chewing is great to optimise your intake of nutrients. It also creates some time for the body to process its status whilst eating, so you’ll know when you’re done eating way earlier. It’s one of the most important things in losing weight! This is why many health experts recommend to eat at a table, instead of in front of the TV. When we’re distracted, we chew less. That leads us to eat more and thus overeat.
So, from now on:
Watch for health indicators in your mouth regularly, eat well and consciously, clean your mouth and see your dentist frequently. Your body will thank you for it! How are you with your oral health and were you taught to look after it from a young age? Please, let me know in the comments below! And if you want regular updates on this blog, please subscribe and get a free e-book on saving money. You can also follow me on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, so you’ll never have to miss a new post!
Lots of love,
LisaHome » Body »