We all know we're supposed to brush every night. Two times a day, in fact! But you may not know the exact extent to which failing to brush your teeth often enough and well enough affects not only your oral health, but your overall body health too!!
You've probably heard your dentist say that dental health affects overall health. But why/how?
Well, basically, your mouth is full of bacteria, just like the rest of your body. But as you can guess, even though most of this bacteria is harmless, the bad bacteria from your mouth can quite easily get into your stomach or lungs.
So brushing and flossing regularly (brush every morning and brush every night!) is a good start to getting rid of the bad bacteria. But you should also know that medications, from painkillers to antidepressants to antihistamines, can reduce the amount of saliva that's in your mouth.
What does that have do with anything?
Well, you NEED enough saliva in your mouth because it gets rid of the acids created by bad bacteria. Basically, saliva is washing away some of the ill effects of too much bad bacteria!!
But it isn't just that bad bacteria in your mouth causes disease. It's also true that if you develop a dental disease, that has effects on the rest of your health. For example, if you get periodontitis, gum disease, studies show that this could cause other diseases.
In fact, one rather unsettling study showed that people who had gum disease and tooth loss had a higher risk of early cognitive decline, and another study even linked gum disease with having more beta-amyloid in the brain, which is a marker of Alzheimer's.
Scientists aren't exactly sure how gum disease is related to the brain yet, but if that's not an incentive to brush every night, what is??
But it's not just that bad dental health makes your overall health bad. It also works the other way – that bad overall health can affect your dental health. For example, if you have diabetes, this makes it harder for your body to fight off infection, which of course includes oral infections.
So, you might be wondering if there's anything else you can do to ensure good oral health, and thus make sure a "dirty mouth" doesn't make you sick, other than brushing and flossing.
One surprising thing you should do is, avoid certain types of mouthwash. Mouthwashes are great if they contain sodium lauryl sulfate, which helps your teeth get clean. But you should be careful if your mouthwash is antibacterial. This is because antibacterial mouthwash kills ALL bacteria in your mouth, good or bad.
And while it's great to kill off the bad bacteria, good bacteria is one of your body's defenses against getting sick.
Plus, if you're getting rid of ALL the bacteria in your mouth, then you're risking a bacterial imbalance in your mouth, which could mean too much bad bacteria!!
So I'm saying, mouthwash is just fine, but don't use an antibacterial mouthwash (or toothpaste).
Not all bacteria is bad. In fact, if you'd like to know more about good bacteria and how consuming it is great for gut health and can help prevent disease, I'd be happy to write an article on that! Just let me know in the comments. 😉