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Oral Health connected to Overall Health

Now here is some interesting myth busting - your oral health is actually connected to your overall health, including your mental health.

Many people think that oral health is independent from the rest of their body - believing that they can have bad teeth and dental problems and that it is somehow separate from other parts of your body.

So let us start with some facts / interesting tidbits which will make you realize just how connected they are.

#1. One of the first side effects smokers get when they first start smoking is a yellowing of their teeth. If they brush regularly this won't be that visible, but over time this starts to wear down on their teeth as the chemicals released during the process of smoking wear down the enamel on their teeth - and enamel erosion leads to teeth loss. So if you can imagine dying of cancer, imagine being toothless and also dying of cancer.

#2. Bacteria in your mouth is normal. The problem however is that when you get too much bacteria in your mouth they start to produce acid which causes problems for your teeth - and when swallowed the acid harms your neck, stomach and lungs as the acid and bacteria spreads. People with poor dental hygiene are more prone to getting sick because bacteria spreads more easily through their system. They are also more prone to getting heartburn due to acid reflux.

#3. Various medications — such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers and diuretics — can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease.

#4. Oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with periodontitis — a severe form of gum disease — plays a role in some diseases. In addition, certain diseases, such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and others, can lower the body's resistance to infection, making oral health problems that much more problematic.

#5. Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, especially your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach themselves to damaged areas in your heart.

#6. Cardiovascular disease. Heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke are sometimes linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.

#7. Periodontitis has been linked to premature births and low birth weight of babies, decreasing their chances of survival.

#8. Diabetes reduces the body's resistance to infection — putting your gums at risk. Gum disease is more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes. Likewise, people who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels.

#9. Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS and similar diseases.

#10. Osteoporosis — which causes bones to become weak and brittle — is linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss.

#11. Tooth loss before age 35 is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease and a risk factor for other mental health problems.

#12. Sjogren's syndrome — an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth, which in turn leads to higher levels of bacteria and too much acid wear on your teeth.

A couple weeks ago I went to a new dentist near Rosedale - Archer Dental near the corner of Sherbourne and Bloor - and I was amazed at the form they had me fill out during my first visit. It covered a long list of medications for heart disease, diabetes and many other health issues that at the time I thought was unrelated to oral health care.

But evidently I was wrong. After all I am not a dentist. So I had to do quite a bit of research in preparing this post so I could learn why that form was so comprehensive with respect to other health conditions.

Now I feel so much more educated on this topic and decided to share some of my myth busting info with others.

So what can you do to improve your dental health / overall health? Luckily I have made a list.

12 things can you do to improve your overall health AND your dental health

#1. Brush 2 to 3 times daily.

#2. Floss daily.

#3. Eat healthier meals that .

#4. Eat healthier snacks in-between meals.

#5. Rinse out your mouth regularly with anti-bacterial mouthwash.

#6. Chew sugar-free gum (removes bacteria from your mouth).

#7. If you are a smoker, stop smoking.

#8. Replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months.

#9. Schedule dental checkups regularly.

#10. Find a dentist you actually LIKE (this improves your odds of going there). eg. I really liked Archer Dental (and not just because it has archer in the name) because they spent the time explaining things to me and made me feel really comfortable about what they doing with my teeth. I am actually looking forward to my next visit.

#11. Contact your dentist immediately if you have an oral health emergency. Don't delay and wait for it to get worse.

#12. If you don't have dental insurance from your workplace, look into getting dental insurance. (eg. Manulife Financial offers Coverme "Flexcare" health/dental insurance. This is not a promotion, I am just quoting the first company that came up when I Googled 'dental insurance toronto'.) Or failing that set aside money every year just for your dental needs, which is what I do. The latter requires more fiscal discipline.

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