From childhood, dentists stress the importance of good oral health. Twice-annual cleanings and regular brushing and flossing can make all the difference later in life, when serious dental problems begin to appear. With good oral hygiene, you can increase the odds you’ll have a mouthful of healthy teeth in old age. But you may not realize that oral health is directly connected to your overall health and well-being, as well.
The culprit is bacteria, which builds up in your mouth regardless of how many times per day you brush your teeth. Saliva can help wash away some of the bacteria, but if you’re on some medications, including antidepressants and decongestants, you’ll produce reduced saliva, making it easier for your mouth to become a bacteria breeding ground. Understanding the many benefits of oral health can help you prioritize it in your daily life.
The Risks of Poor Oral Health
If you thought the only consequence of poor oral hygiene is more dental visits later in life, you aren’t alone. Only in recent years has the general public become aware of the connection between oral bacterial buildup and overall health. Unfortunately, bacteria don’t isolate itself to your mouth and when they spread to other areas of your body, they can cause heart issues.
Experts believe there may be a link between oral bacteria and endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart. They have also stated a possible connection between oral bacteria and cardiovascular disease, since inflammation and infections can exacerbate heart issues. Lastly, poor dental hygiene can be passed on to your offspring, should you become pregnant. Gum disease in particular has been connected to premature births and low birth weight.
The Benefits of Good Oral Health
In addition to living a longer, healthier life, good oral health throughout your lifetime will save you money in later years. Instead of spending half your life savings on root canals and dental implants, you’ll leave your regular cleanings with a clean bill of health. Good oral hygiene also means better breath, which will prevent you scaring people off throughout the day. Best of all, you’ll have a full mouth of healthy teeth, which will keep you smiling as you travel, socialize, and enjoy your golden years.
Dental Tips for Older Adults
The good news is, no matter what your age, there are things you can do each day to improve your oral health. They include:
- Brush at least twice a day—Bacteria from the food you consume remains in the mouth throughout the day. If you snack regularly, you may want to brush more often than twice per day.
- Floss regularly—It only takes a few minutes and it can make a huge difference.
- Reduce sugary food—Sugar is a magnet for bad bacteria, which promotes plaque buildup.
- Avoid coffee and soda—If you choose to drink these types of beverages, use a straw to reduce the amount of contact they have with your teeth.
Are you interested in learning more about how you can keep a healthy smile as you get older? Walker Methodist is hosting an informational presentation, Benefits of Oral Health, which kicks off October 10 at 4 p.m. in the Walker Methodist Health Center Chapel. Parking will be provided. Please RSVP as soon as possible at 612-827-8311. Click here for more information.