National Smile Month started this week! If you’re not aware, it’s the largest & longest-running campaign to promote good oral health. Between 13th May and 13th June 2019, National Smile Month will be sharing positive messages and engaging others to develop and maintain a healthy mouth.
Looking after our mouths can impact how we live and the way in which age too. I’ll be exploring this further on, including some tips for optimum oral health and hygiene.
Coincidentally, it’s also the week that my kids and I had our periodic dental check.
Family trip to the dentist
Now, I wouldn’t say it’s our favourite thing to do, nor even in our top 10, but we know it’s important. We’re fortunate enough to be registered with an NHS dentist (pure lottery in this day and age, it seems). Even better, our dentist is a lovely, friendly chap, which makes the chore less terrible.
Our most recent check-up went as well as can be expected. Out dentist gave us each a few pointers in terms of how to improve our brushing, but apart from that, clean bills of health all around. We’re safe for the next 6 months!
Teeth are really important
Many of us take our teeth for granted, but they are vitally important to us for several reasons:
- They help us to chew and digest food
- They enable us to talk and to speak clearly
- They give shape to our faces
- They enable us to smile!
Smiling, of course brings its own benefits. A smile can transform our appearance and even our mindset. It can give us greater confidence, as well as positively influence our relationships, social lives and even our careers.
Benefits of good oral health
Having good oral health brings various wider health benefits.
Keeping our teeth healthy for the long term
By brushing our teeth twice daily, be mindful of the amount of sugar we consume and regular dental visits, we can help to reduce the risk of diseases such as dental decay and gum disease – both of which can result in tooth loss.
Tooth loss through dental decay and gum disease are almost entirely preventable. With a good daily oral health routine, we should be able to maintain our teeth for life.
Research has found that the number of teeth we have is a strongly correlated to how long we will live. Those with 20 teeth or more at the age of 70 have a considerably higher chance of living longer than those with less than 20 teeth.
Risk of gum disease
With gum disease, bacteria from our mouth can get into our bloodstream. This produces a protein which causes the blood to thicken and makes clots more likely to form. If our heart isn’t getting the nutrients and oxygen it needs this could increase the risk of heart attack.
Similarly, gum disease can also cause inflammation of the blood vessels, blocking the blood supply to the brain, leading to a potential stroke.
New research has also shown that we are more likely to develop diabetes if we have gum disease.
Risk of cancer & dementia
Keeping our teeth and gums healthy also helps to reduce our risk of certain cancers, particularly in women, as well as some forms of dementia.
New research, which examined data from 65,000 post-menopausal women from 54-86, found those with a history of gum disease were 14% more likely to develop cancer. Of these, 1/3 developed breast cancer while there was also a highly-increased risk of lung cancer, oesophageal, gall bladder and skin cancers.
Those with healthy gums are also 70% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who have suffered from gum disease over a long period of time.
Keeping up appearances
Keeping our teeth clean and healthy brings other benefits too!
A very common condition that can affect our appearance is tooth staining. Unfortunately staining is natural and comes with the ‘wear & tear’ of using our teeth every day. It is commonly associated with smoking, or drinking lots of tea, coffee or red wine. Some people are most susceptible than others.
Staining tends not to be harmful and shouldn’t directly affect the health of our teeth. However stained teeth can make us feel a little self-conscious, especially if others around us seem to have impossibly white teeth!
We should be able to prevent most surface staining with regular cleaning and whitening toothpaste, while more stubborn stains may need to be tackled by a dental professional.
Keeping our teeth clean can also help us steer clear of bad breath (halitosis). Unfortunately, bad breath is pretty common and is often caused by a build-up of plaque. It can also be a symptom of gum disease and tooth decay, as well as being embarrassing and undesirable.
Tips for oral health and hygiene
For the best oral health and hygiene, follow these simple steps.
- Brush your teeth – at least twice a day, preferably after meals
- Clean your tongue – with a tongue scraper or the back of your toothbrush
- Use a mouthwash – after brushing
- Floss – at least daily to remove plaque and food remnants your brush can’t reach
- Cut out sugary food and drinks – clean teeth afterwards / rinse your mouth with water if you do indulge
- Attend regular appointments for dental check-ups and hygienist cleaning
- Quit smoking!
It’s advisable for us all to look after our teeth and mouth health. This becomes even more important as we age as it could have wider knock-on impacts on our health, well-being and ultimately our longevity. By following a few simple steps, we should be able to prevent the worst and enjoy the benefits of good oral health for the long term.
Thank you for reading! For more on Age Life Balance, browse the blog at www.agelifebalance.com to find out more.