If the eyes are the windows to the soul, the mouth is the window to your general well-being. Over the years, scientists have found a number of surprising connections between the state of what’s in your mouth – your teeth, gums, and tongue – and your risk of disease, cancer, and a number of other unpleasant conditions. Keep reading to learn more.
Chew Your Way to Better Digestion
What is the ideal number of bites before you swallow? A commonly-quoted number is 32 times, and the Victorian-era health food enthusiast Horace Fletcher, also known as “The Great Masticator,” reportedly chewed 100 times before gulping down. Since all foods are different, the real answer is to chew as many times as it takes to liquefy your food. Doing so will help you better digest your food.
Fluoride Mouthwash May Cause Cancer
Though it is highly debated, there have been some studies that show a connection between fluoridated water and higher instances of cancer. Because many dental products, especially mouthwash, contain fluoride, they may increase this risk. If you’re worried, look for fluoride-free and alcohol-free oral hygiene products.
Supertasters Have a Higher Cancer Risk
Approximately one quarter of people are supertasters, whose denser pattern of taste buds allow them to experience much bolder flavors than other people. However, with this benefit comes some scary downsides. First of all, supertasters have a higher risk for colon cancer because of their tendency to avoid good-for-you but bitter tasting vegetables such as broccoli. Secondly, their affinity for salt puts them more at risk for cardiac problems such as heart attacks. And thirdly, because the food tastes so good, supertasters are more at risk for weight-related issues and obesity.
Your Dentist May Notice Osteoporosis Before Your Doctor Does
One of the prevailing signs of osteoporosis is bone loss in the jaw. With this loss of density comes a tendency for your teeth to sink in, or even fall out, two problems you are more likely to bring to your dentist than your doctor.
Grinding Your Teeth Can Hurt Your Back
Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is bad for your teeth because it can wear them down or even chip or break them. But did you know that it can have painful affects on other parts of your body, too? Bruxism can cause TMJ, shoulder and back pain, and insomnia. It can be hard to stop grinding your teeth once it’s a habit, but wearing a mouth guard at night and practicing mindfulness while you’re awake is a good start.
Chewing Gum is Bad for You
We’ve all heard that chewing gum is good for your teeth because of Xylitol’s positive affect on cavities, but that might not be the whole story. Because you are essentially chewing indefinitely without swallowing anything nutritious, your body prepares for food intake that is never going to come. You produce extra saliva, and at the same time, your stomach begins producing more acid, both to break down the food it expects to appear. This can cause upset stomach and other unpleasant, but usually temporary conditions. However, unnecessary chewing can also cause TMJ, a painful and permanent jaw condition, so chew with care.
Bad Breath May Be a Sign of Something More
Most of us try to mask our bad breath with mints or mouthwash, but if you suffer from chronic bad breath there may be problems greater than disgusting your friends. Halitosis, the scientific name for bad breath, is a symptom of many unpleasant illnesses, such as chronic sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, or even issues with your kidneys or liver.
Your Lip Balm May Be Drying Your Lips
Take a look at the ingredient list on your tube of lip balm. You may think it’s the only thing that can help your dry, chapped lips, but many brands contain salicylic acid or alcohol (look for “OL” on the label). These ingredients are there to slough off the dead skin, but they may actually be drying out your skin instead. This triggers a vicious cycle of application and reapplication as soon as it dries.
Flossing Can Prevent Heart Disease
Your toothbrush can’t reach every part of your mouth, and even mouthwash cannot force its way into some of the tight cracks between your teeth. To reach all of these spaces, flossing is necessary. When you don’t floss, you are inviting bacteria to reproduce in their ideal condition – a warm, dark, and wet area where they can thrive. These bacteria can spread to the rest of your body, causing heart disease, diabetes, or respiratory illness.
Obviously, there is a strong connection between your oral health and the health of the rest of your body. Hopefully, learning these facts will help you improve your dental hygiene. An ideal routine involves both careful brushing and daily flossing. If nothing else, maybe these facts will inspire you to get up right now and go floss.
BIO: Alicia Lawrence is a content coordinator for a tech company and writes for Examiner.com and AskMissA.com. Her husband is a personal trainer and as a family they make it a top priority to live healthy.
Mark Dilworth, BA, PES