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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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    Repairing a Chipped or Broken Tooth

    You're crunching ice or a piece of hard candy when you notice something hard in your mouth that doesn't melt or dissolve. You get a sick feeling as you realize what it is -- a piece of broken tooth. Although the enamel that covers your teeth is the hardest, most mineralized tissue in the body, its strength has limits. Falling, receiving a blow to the face, or biting down on something hard -- particularly if a tooth already has some decay -- can cause a tooth to chip or break. If you discover you...

    Read the Repairing a Chipped or Broken Tooth article > >

    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, rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash, and seeing your dentist regularly -- remember that you're a role model for your kids. Keep in mind these six ways that healthy teeth and gums 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.

    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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