San Francisco is praised as the healthiest city in America. Here in the Bay Area, we boast ample sources of fresh produce, lots of open spaces and parks for outdoor activities, and high bike and walk scores.
But for those looking to lead a long and healthy life, it’s not enough to eat well and exercise often; you need to proactively care for your teeth.
In fact, studies continue to prove that daily brushing and flossing — simple habits that take a mere 5 minutes a day — can add years to your life. Conversely, neglecting your teeth can be fatal.
Awful things happen when you don’t care for your teeth
It’s an extreme example, but consider “the man who didn’t brush his teeth for 20 years.” As you’d expect, 20 years of plaque and tartar build-up on this man’s teeth led to massive decay, the need for 11 tooth extractions, and a costly dental restoration.
As ghoulish as this man’s situation was, it’s nothing compared to the risk his poor dental habits posed to his overall health. The reality is, if you fail to brush, floss, and see your dentist regularly, tooth decay will be just the beginning of your problems.
The link between oral health and overall health
If you want to understand the major health implications of poor dental care, you first need to understand how your mouth is connected to the rest of your body. It’s what we refer to as oral-systemic health and it’s the reason my San Francisco dental practice takes a whole-body approach to care.
In your mouth, there’s a barrier between your teeth and gums to the rest of your body. Without proper brushing and flossing habits, tartar and plaque accumulate and trigger infection, inflammation, and gum disease.
Gum disease causes deterioration in your mouth, breaking down the barrier between your mouth and body. This allows the inflammation and infection in your mouth to pass on to other systems in your body through your bloodstream
Medical conditions linked to poor dental health
There is a long list of serious health problems connected to poor oral health:
Research shows that 91% of people with heart disease also have gum disease. With heart disease killing over 600,000 Americans every year, taking care of your teeth and preventing gum disease should be a priority.
Heart attack & Stroke
Your body’s inflammatory response to gum disease can also lead to arterial plaque. This plaque narrows or blocks the arteries, causing heart attack and stroke.
Additionally, researchers have found tooth loss (often the result of decay) is linked to increasing rates of stroke.
Inflammation in your mouth as a result of gum disease makes it difficult for insulin in your body to do its job. This makes managing diabetes very difficult.
Research suggests that gum disease can lead to memory loss. When bacteria in the mouth spreads to the rest of your body through the bloodstream. It can also enter the nerve channel, killing brain cells.
The recipe for living longer: Brushing, flossing, and going to the dentist
So how can you prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and all these major health problems? Taking a proactive approach to your dental health!
What is a proactive approach? It’s the practice of developing healthy dental habits with the goal of avoiding issues in the first place.
Take a look below for a guide to maintaining healthy teeth and gums and preventing problems
Brush twice a day
Plaque begins to build up on your teeth just 20 minutes after eating. Brushing your teeth is very important for keeping this sticky, bacteria-filled substance from accumulating and hardening into tartar.
Tartar is very difficult to remove, so twice-a-day brushing is important for keeping this substance from forming in the first place.
For the best results, use a soft toothbrush and replace it every 3 months or so. Spend at least 2 minutes brushing and remember to be gentle!
Don’t forget to floss
Did you know: Flossing daily adds an estimated 6.4 years to your life!
Flossing allows you to reach between your teeth to areas you can’t clean with just a toothbrush. Food and plaque often become trapped between your teeth, fueling bacteria and inflammation, so taking time to floss is critical to preventing decay and gum disease.
Visit the dentist every 6-months
Regular exams and cleanings are critical to a proactive approach to dental care. I recommend most patients come see me every 6 months. However, if you’re at high risk for dental problems like gum disease or decay, I may suggest more frequent cleanings.
Not only are regular appointments the best way to identify and stop any potential problems, they’re also a great opportunity to ask questions and address any of your concerns.
These visits help us develop a good relationship. And a strong doctor-patient relationship allows for a more personalized approach to your care and the best results.
Another important point: If something hurts or you notice a change in your health, don’t wait to get help. Contact your dentist immediately. It could help you catch and stop a serious problem in its tracks.
Eat foods that are good for your teeth and gums
Certain foods and drinks contribute to cavities and gum disease, so eating a mouth-friendly diet is important for minimizing your risk of problems.
Avoid too many foods high in sugar, carbs, acidity, and staining properties. Instead, enjoy a delicious diet of ingredients like:
- Leafy greens
- Whole fruit
- Tomatoes & carrots
- Chicken, tofu, and tempeh
Your journey toward a longer, healthier life starts now
It’s never too late to get a healthier, more beautiful smile and take a proactive approach.
Even if you haven’t been taking the best care of your teeth and its been years since you last visited the dentist, we can help.
At Green Dentistry, we take a holistic approach and want to help every patient achieve long-term health and wellness. This dedication to proactive dental care allows us to provide the best dental care in San Francisco.
If you have concerns about your dental health or are ready to start fresh and take control of your health, give us a call at (415) 433-0119. Or schedule an appointment online. We can’t wait to hear from you!
A graduate of the University of Southern California and the University of California’s School of Dentistry, Dr. Patel is a leader in the movement to bring environmental sanity and well-being into the dental world. As a trusted dentist, Dr. Patel provides her patients with more than just world-class dental care — she helps them recognize the vital connection between dental health and whole body health. She is also a ForbesBooks and Amazon best-selling author.