The Lifestyle Connection to Healthy Teeth and Gums
As a dentist AND dedicated practitioner of exercise and healthy eating, here’s what I tell all my patients. “Your lifestyle and your oral health are connected.” For good oral health, you get out what you put in. That means eating healthy, exercising, and avoiding substances that are poisonous to your body will keep your gums pink and your teeth shiny.
Your lifestyle and your oral health connect in some ways that are not obvious. Take stress, drug use, and smoking for example. They are not only bad for your body and mind, but they can wreak havoc on your teeth and gums. Here’s why:
Stress is bad for your body in multiple ways. Stress increases cortisol, which can lead to lowered immune function, weight gain, cancer, and depression.
For your mouth, stress can cause bruxism, or teeth grinding. Excessive grinding wears down the protective surface—the enamel—of your teeth, exposing the sensitive nerve endings and causing severe pain. Stress and anxiety can also cause you to clench your jaw muscles, and may lead to Temporomandibular disorder (TMD). People with TMD often experience jaw pain or tightness and have difficulty chewing.
Recreational drugs like heroin, amphetamines, methamphetamines, marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy can all cause dry mouth, which may lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Additionally, these drugs cause the capillaries in your mouth to tighten. Tightened capillaries reduce the capacity of your bones to attach to your tooth tissue and can cause tooth loss.
Even legal prescription drugs can be damaging to your oral health. Asthma inhalers contain acidic compounds that degrade your tooth enamel when inhaled, and medicinal syrups often have a high sugar content which can lead to cavities. Obviously, use medicine if it is necessary, but adjust your brushing and flossing routing accordingly.
Not only is smoking bad for your lungs, your heart, your skin, and your brain, it is also detrimental to your oral health. Any type of tobacco (cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars, etc.) is linked to bad breath; tooth decay and loss; gum disease; and throat, mouth, and tongue cancer. Both your mouth and your body will thank you if you live a tobacco-free life.
Maintaining healthy teeth and gums usually means you’re maintaining an overall healthy body. Follow common sense when it comes to putting things into your body, and schedule time every day for yourself. Doing activities like yoga, meditation, or traditional exercise each day can help you keep your stress levels in check and improve your well-being.
Is it time for your dental exam? Schedule your appointment now and let’s see if there are some small changes you can make to improve your healthy lifestyle.
Remember, beautiful teeth are healthy teeth!
Dr. Nishan Halim
Nishan Halim, DMD specializes in adult and pediatric restorative and cosmetic dentistry, as well as preventative dentistry, which is at the heart of this Capitol Hill, Washington DC neighborhood dental center. If you have questions about gum disease, contact Dr. Halim to schedule an appointment. Find out how he can help you maintain your healthy smile.