General health is oral health ... the important role of diet in maintaining a healthy smile
Committing to effective oral hygiene is as vital as exercise and diet when it comes to supporting overall wellness. Failure to do so can adversely impact other areas of the body, and even cause life-threatening diseases.
The vascular network in the body is responsible for keeping everything connected, including the mouth. For that reason, medicine and dentistry are inherently linked, and our oral health is indicative of what is happening elsewhere in the body.
Knowledge is power, and by understanding the connection between oral health and other conditions, we can take the right steps to simultaneously protect the health of our mouths and the rest of our bodies.
Like an ever-growing number of dental practitioners around the world, the iSmile Studio team subscribes to a belief in ‘biological dentistry’. This means we pay close attention to how a client’s general health, habits, lifestyle, and underlying health conditions might be impacting their mouth, and visa versa.
In this article, we’ll examine three important considerations associated with and connected to good oral and overall health.
A well functioning mouth means a healthy body
Fundamentally, it’s important to ensure your mouth is functioning well because damaged, missing or sensitive teeth can impact the choices we make around diet. And as we’re all aware, our dietary choices have a hugely significant impact on our overall health.
Gum sensitivity can also create a barrier to eating nutrient-rich, fresh whole foods, instead causing people to turn to processed alternatives in an effort to avoid discomfort.
Poor diet can lead to all sorts of complications, in particular inflammation throughout the body, as well as low energy and weight gain, and degenerative illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and dementia.
Aside from this, a common symptom of gum disease is bleeding. This gives bacteria found in the mouth a convenient means of infiltrating the bloodstream, and making its way into other parts of the body.
It is therefore vital that your mouth is sufficiently maintained so it can do its job by enabling you to eat healthy food, and creating a barrier between the body and oral bacteria.
Cut out the sugar
Despite how delicious it can be, we all know the risks associated with eating too much refined and processed sugar, and in particular the impact on our teeth.
Cariogenic bacteria found in the mouth in the mouth converts sugar into acid. Once coated with this acid, tooth enamel is seriously eroded, increasing the risk of decay and gum disease.
One way to offset the impact of sugar on your teeth is to rinse your mouth with water immediately after eating sugar-rich foods. This will help neutralise the harmful acid, and stimulate the production of saliva, which offers a natural defence against its damaging impact.
A more effective and overall healthier approach would involve cutting down on your refined sugar intake altogether. Refined carbohydrates, including sugars, contain very little of benefit like vitamins and minerals, and are processed quickly by the body meaning they provide only a very short burst of energy.
Conversely, unrefined or complex carbohydrates make the body work harder to break them down and access the nutrients they contain. These types of food consequently offer a much slower release of energy, and reduce the urge to snack throughout the day.
The case for giving sugar the boot just gets stronger and stronger! If you’re serious about giving this a try, then it goes without saying you should exclude cakes, lollies, sugary drinks and even most breakfast cereals from your diet.
The real problem, however, is that sugar can be found hiding in the foods we least expect. White bread, pasta, rice, and even some canned vegetables can all contain a surprising amount of the stuff. That’s why it’s so important to check the nutritional information on all the food you purchase.
After a lifetime of enjoying a sugar-rich diet, it can often be a struggle to cut back. That’s because sugar consumption causes neuro-pathways in the brain to give you a sugar craving. And, just like any other drug, your sugar tolerance builds over time, meaning the amount you need to satisfy your craving is permanently on the increase.
“I can resist everything but temptation!” Now there’s a quote most of us can probably relate to! When it comes to sugar, you can try to avoid temptation by eliminating unhealthy food options from your home. You may even find substitutes can help. For example, instead of ice cream for desert, consider a few cubes of dark chocolate, or even better fruits and berries!
Be good to your gut
The so-called ‘western diet’ has a lot to answer for. While undoubtedly delicious, affordable and highly convenient, it is one of the root causes of an ever-growing list of afflictions that are increasing in prevalence.
In modern society, gut health in generally pretty poor, leading to problems like diarrhoea, stomach ache and constipation. At the same time, the incidence of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is on the rise, causing much discomfort as the contents of the stomach rise up into the throat.
Another condition on the rise is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The resultant immune system hyperactivity leads to inflammation, and symptoms of pain and tiredness.
Trillions of microbes exist in the gut, making up what’s known as the microbiome. This is responsible for breaking down the food we eat, and the production of ‘metabolites’, which support digestion and immune function.
Scientists have shown that sugar (yes, sugar again!) actually feeds a type of gut bacteria that causes inflammation. And if that wasn’t alarming enough, sugar has also been found to hinder the production of inflammation-reducing bacteria. When you add the fact that processed foods filled with refined sugar typically lack the complex carbohydrates needed to support healthy bacteria populations in the gut, the e negative impact of our sugar intake on our overall health becomes starkly apparent.
Again, by cutting back on processed foods, in particular those containing high levels of refined sugar, you’ll be doing your gut (and consequently the rest of your body!) a big favour. Even better, replacing them with high-fibre foods, including whole fruits and vegetables, has the potential to boost positive health outcomes even further.
Take a mindful approach to the food you put into your mouth
Nobody likes the fun police, and we’re certainly not suggesting that you should never again treat yourself to the occasional sweet indulgence. The key is mindfulness. Make sure you remain ever conscious of what you’re eating, how much, what’s in it, and the impact it is having on your whole body.
Fundamentally, improving your diet by reducing your refined sugar intake will have a direct impact on your oral health, as well as supporting the health of other parts of the body which can impact the condition of your mouth.
At iSmile Studio we want to keep you smiling on the outside, by working on your smile from within.