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The Mouth-Body Connection: 6 Ways Oral Hygiene Helps Keep You Well

Taking good care of your mouth -- teeth and gums -- does more than help ensure you have a bright, white smile.

A healthy mouth and healthy body go hand in hand. Good oral hygiene and oral health can improve your overall health, reducing the risk of serious disease and perhaps even preserving your memory in your golden years. The phrase "healthy mouth, healthy you" really is true -- and backed by growing scientific evidence.

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It's never too early to start teaching your children to take care of their teeth and gums: Healthy habits learned in childhood can pay off in adulthood. And, if you're tempted to shrug off your good oral hygiene habits -- brushing, flossing, and seeing your dentist regularly -- remember that you're a role model for your kids. Keep in mind these six ways having healthy teeth and gums helps boost overall health.

Boosts Your Self-esteem and Confidence

Decayed teeth and gum disease are often associated not only with an unsightly mouth but very bad breath -- so bad it can affect your confidence, self-image, and self-esteem. With a healthy mouth that's free of gum disease and cavities, your quality of life is also bound to be better -- you can eat properly, sleep better, and concentrate with no aching teeth or mouth infections to distract you.

May Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Chronic inflammation from gum disease has been associated with the development of cardiovascular problems such as heart disease, blockages of blood vessels, and strokes.

Experts stop short of saying there is a cause-and-effect between gum disease and these other serious health problems, but the link has shown up in numerous studies. The findings of these studies may suggest that maintaining oral health can help protect overall health.

Preserves Your Memory

Adults with gingivitis (swollen, bleeding gums) performed worse on tests of memory and other cognitive skills than did those with healthier gums and mouths, according to a report in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

Those with gingivitis were more likely to perform poorly on two tests: delayed verbal recall and subtraction -- both skills used in everyday life.

Using an antibacterial mouthwash or toothpaste can help reduce bacteria in the mouth that can cause gingivitis.

Reduces Risks of Infection and Inflammation in Your Body

Poor oral health has been linked with the development of infection in other parts of the body. 

Research has found an association between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joints. Experts say the mechanism of the destruction of connective tissues in both gum disease and RA is similar. Eating a balanced diet, seeing your dentist regularly, and good oral hygiene helps reduce your risks of tooth decay and gum disease. Make sure you brush twice a day and floss once a day. 

WebMD Medical Reference

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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