Our mouths, and therefore our oral health, can reflect our general health. The mouth is the entry point to the digestive and respiratory systems; teeming with bacteria, most of which are completely innocent. However, some less friendly bacteria can begin their journey in the mouth and go on to cause disease and issues in other areas of the body.
Good oral hygiene is a fantastic health behaviour, not only helping nutrients on their way into the body but playing a huge part in social interaction, self-esteem and confidence and giving a feeling of wellbeing. A simple daily routine, along with the body’s natural defences like saliva and mucus, are usually enough to keep you smiling.
Mouth and oral hygiene as a health mirror
A symptom in the mouth can be an indication that there is a problem elsewhere in the body or mind, for example:
- Mouth ulcers are sometimes a sign of Coeliac or Crohn’s disease or a symptom of stress or a B12 or iron deficiency.
- Pale or dark red and bleeding gums can be a marker for disorders and diseases such as kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, anaemia, diabetes, gingivitis. Moreover, it’s thought that inflamed gums are more porous and can be open to entry of ‘bad’ bacteria, creating an immune response throughout the body.
- A swollen tongue can signal anaemia.
- A dry mouth can flag up drug side effects.
- Tooth grinding can be a symptom of stress.
- Tooth loss can be a symptom of osteoporosis.
- Oral thrush can arise because of an overgrowth of candida fungus in the digestive tract.
- Eroded tooth enamel can flag up bulimia and other eating disorders.
- Nutrient deficiencies can be shown by the gums and tongue if inflamed, re, cracked or sore; often when lacking B vitamins and vitamin C. Other key players are vitamin D and calcium for strong bone health – teeth being bones!
Saliva is a great thing too!
Saliva is an excellent medium for testing for certain compounds in the body, such as alcohol, nicotine, drugs, hormones (including stress ones), environmental toxins and antibodies. It’s even used to detect circadian rhythm changes in astronauts!
Not only can saliva show up disease, the state of the mouth can cause and worsen disease, including heart disease, pneumonia and pregnancy complications. Some of this is because it creates inflammation throughout the body, which is a precursor to so many diseases and conditions.
What goes into the mouth matters
Diet is one of the biggest influencers of overall health. Getting the best nutrition is a wise health move and of course it goes in through the mouth and the mouth is the place that starts the breakdown and absorption of food and nutrients, so it needs to be in good working order.
Most people have heard of the microbiome, it’s been trending for a while now. It’s the population of bacteria that live inside us and affect our overall health. It needs friendly bacteria by the lorry-load! The mouth is the entry point for around a trillion bacteria each day, it literally seeds the microbiome. That’s why mouth washes are such a bad idea because they kill indiscriminately and prevent the good guys from getting down into the gut and working their systemic magic.
Love your mouth
It goes without saying, if you look after your oral health you are helping to insure yourself not only against inflammatory disease but against common issues such as ulcers, bad breath, tooth ache, cavities and potentially tooth loss. Those things can affect eating, sleep and concentration; certainly enough to leave people feeling down in the mouth. Not you!
Look after your oral hygiene and upgrade your health
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
- Floss daily.
- Eat a healthy varied and fibrous diet and limit food with added sugars.
- Replace your toothbrush every three months or sooner if bristles are splayed or worn.
- Schedule regular dental checkups and hygiene appointments.
- Avoid using mouthwash as it kills friendly bacteria
- Don’t smoke
- Limit alcohol
- Limit or cut out fruit juices and sweet drinks
- Omit dairy from your diet with extreme caution
- Athletes, be aware that sports drinks and gels can erode enamel
“Be true to your teeth and they won’t be false to you!” Soupy Sales