Why you should prioritise your oral health

When we think of the term stress we often associate it with events that cause emotional stress. This could be a deadline at work, a university assignment, an impending performance appraisal or a loved one who is ill. We have all been there: the increase in heart rate, the sweat on the forehead, the lack of sleep. It is not a nice feeling. This ‘fight or flight’ response is actually a protective mechanism to get us out of trouble and keep us safe. The issue in today’s world is that we have the ‘fight or flight’ response switched on for far too long. Chronic stress makes it hard for us to be resilient and achieve optimal health. Beyond emotional stress, what you probably didn’t realise is that ‘dental stress’ can have a huge impact on our overall health too. This is because problems with our teeth, gums and jaw joints can put enormous strain on the body.

To many, it may seem far-fetched to include ‘dental stress’ as an influential component of overall stress and health. There are many reasons why this connection cannot be overlooked:

  1. The mouth is home to two of the most common diseases known to humans: gum disease and dental decay.
  2. Because of the presence of these two diseases, the mouth is a site of chronic inflammation. We know that chronic inflammation is the common denominator in a range of degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. The reason for flossing and brushing and coming in for regular cleans shouldn’t be seen as a chore. You are actually decreasing the amount of inflammation in your body!
  3. The mouth is one of the most sensitive parts of the body. If you were to step on a hair whilst bare-footed you wouldn’t likely feel it. But if you had a hair in your mouth, you’d be onto it! Because it is highly sensitive, imbalances in the way your teeth come together can contribute to headaches, muscle tension and chronic jaw pain.
  4. Enamel is the hardest part of the body. If your teeth have holes in them as a result of your dietary choices, imagine what it is doing to the rest of your body.
  5. Because of these cavities, we as dentists place an incredible amount of foreign material in an individual’s body in the form of fillings, crowns, bridges, implants and dentures. We need to make sure that these materials put the least amount of stress on the body as possible.
  6. The mouth is the start of the digestive tract. If your jaw joints and teeth are not working optimally, then you cannot breakdown your food effectively and get all the nutrients from your food.
  7. The mouth is the gateway to the respiratory tract. Therefore, the shape of your upper and lower jaws, the position of the tongue and way the muscles around the lips and cheeks work, affects the quality of your breathing and sleeping.

Everyone should be striving for the healthiest mouth possible. Too often we use the absence of pain as a marker of oral health. This needs to change. In analysing your own health and fitness, a healthy mouth should be a priority. You cannot be healthy without a healthy mouth.

Lewis Ehrlich