By Jill Anenberg Lawrence, HHC, NLC
Sure, you brush, floss, rinse—you know, all that fun stuff—to prevent cavities, get that pesky string of celery out, and freshen your breath. But most people aren’t aware of the deeper benefits of good dental hygiene and the health issues that a toothbrush and other oral health tools can protect against.
Arguably, the teeth are the most important part of the face. They impact how you eat and talk and support facial bone structure. And aesthetically, we spend so much time and money on body parts like hair and nails, when the teeth (and mouth) are the real showstoppers.
So, I’m gonna give you the rundown on why your teeth, tongue, and gums control way more of your health than you ever thought possible. And don’t worry, I’ll also break down exactly how you can practice impeccable dental hygiene for perfect pearly whites.
How Dental Hygiene Impacts Overall Health
If eyes are windows to the soul, the mouth is a window to your health.
Say you’re on a first date and he flashes a big smile. His teeth are yellow, tartar is visible, and one laugh shows a discolored tongue. Wait! He didn’t list potential diseases linked to dental health on his dating profile. WTF?
In fact, oral health has been linked to various diseases and conditions. Our mouths are filled with bacteria, and if that bacteria is not properly managed, it can cause inflammation and infections that have the potential to spread throughout the body. Poor oral health has been shown to potentially contribute to health issues like cardiovascular disease and respiratory infections.
In the other direction, many chronic diseases—like diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and osteoporosis—can contribute to oral health problems.
The mouth can also send signals of deeper issues with emotional roots. Think teeth grinding and clenching, which is sometimes caused by anxiety or stress.
The Yellow Brick Road to Pearly Whites
Follow these simple steps for dental hygiene that supports your overall health.
- Eat for oral health. Research confirms what us health coaches preach—that antioxidants and other nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts may strengthen immunity and improve the body’s ability to fight bacteria and inflammation, all of which can help protect the teeth and gums. Crunchy, raw fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots, and celery naturally help clean plaque from teeth and freshen breath, too. On the flipside, you may already know that cavity-causing organisms feed on sugar in foods such as soda and candies and convert it to acid, which attacks tooth enamel and causes decay. Carbs break down to sugars and have similar effects on teeth and gums as well.
- Hydrate! Aside from all of the health benefits, water flushes the mouth of toxins, bacteria, and stowaway food particles.
- Stop mouth breathing. Do yoga, and learn to breath through your nose. Aside from it sounding annoying, mouth breathing can throw off pH levels and lead to cavities and gingivitis.
- Brush at least two times a day (preferably three), for two minutes a session. Before you do that, flip over that toothpaste and make sure it doesn’t contain sodium lauryl sulfate, propylene glycol, or artificial sugars or colors.
- Change your toothbrush on the first of each month. Yep, that’s a new brush every 30 days. These scum scrubbers typically remain wet between brushes and accumulate bacteria. They’ve got a dirty job; give them early retirement.
- Floss at bedtime, at the least, but it’s preferable to keep floss with you to use after meals. We all have a few jerk teeth that hang onto food.
- Swish with a good clean mouthwash. No artificial colors, sugars, sulfates, or fluoride. Even better, use a sea salt rinse, since it’s so healing for gum tissue and any tongue or mouth sores.
- Get regular cleanings. Schedule a date with your dental hygienist three times a year.
- Get a tongue scraper. My secret weapon and oral bacteria’s worst enemy, drumroll please…a tongue scraper! Think of your tongue as the doormat that everyone wipes their dirty shoes on.
Everything that enters your mouth deposits toxins on your tongue, leaving bacteria, germs, and food particles that take a field trip around your teeth, into your gums, and down your throat. If we don’t scrape away these toxins, they get reabsorbed by the body and can lead to the health issues discussed earlier.
And brushing your tongue is for amateurs; nothing actually gets removed from your mouth. This six-dollar tongue scraper can be bought at any health food store or online. As you run the gunk-removing magic wand from the back of your tongue to the front, you’ll be scraping out the soft plaque that collects there before it hardens onto your teeth. Fun bonus: that little cleaning of your mouth carpet gives your tastes buds a clean slate, preventing cravings that can be the result of not being able to fully taste your food (with that layer of leftovers rotting away). The best reason, though, is that breath, yo! There’s no better way to improve halitosis (AKA the reason you’re not sealing the deal on the first date).
Overall, remember these good dental hygiene habits and nutritious foods will keep you from having to say, “aahh” too often (for the wrong reasons!) and benefit your overall wellness. Just scrape, floss, and brush, baby!
Jill Anenberg Lawrence is a holistic health coach, certified through The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Nutritious Life’s Nutrition School. Jill also whips butts into shape as an ACE-certified personal trainer and releases humorous exercise videos on YouTube with silly cameos by her two rescue dogs. Raised by very health-conscious parents, a healthy lifestyle has always been second nature for her, and it’s a topic she’s consistently asked about. Jill’s first passion was laughing so hard her abs got a workout. After many years performing stand-up, she transitioned that love of entertaining into educating others on health and wellness while keeping it fun and edgy. Visit her at jilllawrencehealth.com and follow her on Instagram.