You could certainly make the argument that your mouth is one of your body’s day-to-day centerpieces. You use it to speak, to eat, to breathe, and to kiss. You use it to show your emotion—from smiles and frowns to those pierced puckers of frustration.
But maybe some of us do really take our mouths—and all the machinery inside of them—a little bit for granted.
The truth is, oral hygiene does indeed matter, not just because it’s important for you to keep your teeth clean, but also because there can be a lot that happens inside your mouth that has an effect inside your whole body.
Regular oral checkups seemed to slow down during the pandemic (it makes sense why people weren’t keeping their regular appointments), but if you’re still waiting to catch up with your normal routine, it’s important to re-establish your routine. That’s because if you don’t have regular professional cleanings and don’t maintain good oral health, you can end up with chronic inflammation in your mouth, which is associated with chronic inflammation in your whole body—putting you at risk of heart diseases and other issues.
It happens like this: The foreign bacteria in your mouth elicit an immune response that triggers inflammation. That bacteria growing can leak into the body and cause systemic inflammation, all of which is associated with things like joint problems and heart disease (the plaques that form in the arteries are associated with plaques that originate in the mouth).
So having bad oral hygiene is a lot more important than just scaring off your loved ones with a waft of gunky nastiness coming from your mouth.
In addition to regular cleanings from a professional, there’s also a lot you can do, of course. My routine:
- I brush my teeth first thing in the morning—not with a toothpaste, but with a peroxide-containing mouthwash. I use an electric toothbrush, as I find that the electric brushes are much more effective than manual ones.
- I then floss with the peroxide-containing mouthwash still in my mouth.
- I use a tongue scraper, because your tongue holds a lot of bacteria, and taking 5 seconds to wipe that away is worth it.
- Then I rinse my mouth out to get the residual peroxide out.
I do the same routine in both the morning and right before I go to bed.
Is there anything worse than waking up with morning breath? (The answer, of course, is that, yes, there are plenty of things, but you get the picture—swampy mouth ranks high on the blech barometer.)
One of the most amazing things I’ve started doing is taking an oral probiotic, especially designed for oral health, as the last thing I do before going to bed, right after brushing and rinsing. This seeds the mouth with good bacteria and knocks out bad bacteria.
Overnight, the good bacteria populate in your mouth and grow; not only does it help improve the environment of your mouth from a health standpoint, but it also works to improve how your mouth feels (and smells) first thing in the morning.
Your pup or partner who you like to smooch in the morning will thank you.
I know, I know. In the world of health, there are parts of the body that seem to garner more attention than others, like your heart, your brain, and (if you’re a social-media influencer) your rock-hard abs or super-strong backside.
Your teeth—for all their importance in chewing up your chicken—have more than just this basic function. In fact, there’s so much that goes on in that ham hole of yours that it’s such a good proxy for thinking about your overall wellness. Consider this research.
- There’s a strong link between heart disease and oral health, because of the strong relationship between the inflammation that happens in your mouth and systemic inflammation (underscoring the importance of good dental hygiene).
- Having strong teeth (by fortifying with calcium) also means you probably have strong bones. Other nutrients that help: magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin D.
- Some research shows the relationship between tooth loss and joint health. One study showed that those with all 32 teeth had healthier joints than fewer than 20 teeth. Preserve your teeth, and you may be better able to preserve your body.