“Everything in our body is linked”, according to former Surgeon General David Satcher and the past 5 to 10 years have seen ballooning interest in possible links between mouth health and body health. As much as I would simply love to compartmentalize my oral health from my physical fitness, current research is binding the two areas together. I’m learning that my overall health is on the line if I neglect my teeth and gums.
I worked for over 12 years as a Patient Coordinator and Marketing Director at a cutting edge dental practice in addition to being a Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor. Both careers have health as the central focus and I mistakenly surmised that was where the connection ended. I just wanted a bright, white smile in order to feel confident as I would yell at encourage my clients to work hard to reach their fitness goals! I also thought of my mouth only as the opening through which I would cram fudge brownies fuel my body, not as the gateway to my body’s bacterial build up. What I now know is this: “bacteria that builds up on teeth make gums prone to infection. The immune system moves in to attack the infection and the gums become inflamed. The inflammation continues unless the infection is brought under control,” states Pamela McClain, DDS, president of the American Academy of Periodontology.
Over time, inflammation and the chemicals it releases eat away at the gums and bone structure that hold teeth in place. The result is severe gum disease, known as periodontitis. Inflammation can also cause problems in the rest of the body. McClain continues that, “the working relationship between diabetes and periodontitis may be the strongest of all the connections between the mouth and body as inflammation that starts in the mouth seems to weaken the body’s ability to control blood sugar.”
Gum disease and heart disease also go hand in hand. “Up to 91% of patients with heart disease have periodontitis, compared to 66% of people with no heart disease and the theory is that inflammation in the mouth causes inflammation in the blood vessels, "says Sally Cram, DDS, PC, consumer adviser for the American Dental Association. So, although exercise can help diminish the risk for Type II diabetes and cardiovascular heart disease, if we don’t deal directly with our gum disease, we cannot fully fight the good fight for our overall health and wellness.
Some other mouth-body connections under current investigation include: premature birth or low birth weight in babies, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lung conditions and obesity. Wow, pretty scary implications! So, where does that leave us? Let’s start with brushing. Do it often. And floss, but only the teeth you want to keep 😉 Talk to your dental professional about your family history and get a plan to get your mouth healthy. Also know that you can pass this not- so- lovely disease to your significant other- it is communicable. Yuck. But do not despair! Brushing and flossing can be immeasurably more fun when performed in conjunction with wall sits, squats and planks!
Seriously, try this, and take a picture and post it to this blog:
- Get your favorite, less than 3 months old toothbrush.
- Set a timer for 45 seconds.
- Start brushing while maintaining a wall sit, weight predominantly on heels.
(BONUS POINTS FOR ADDING BICEP CURLS)
- After 45 seconds, switch to slow, controlled squats, weight centered in heels.
- Last 45 seconds, hold either a perfect knee or full plank and alternate brushing with both hands.
- Set timer one final time for 45 seconds and resume wall sit while you floss!
Voila! Your mouth and your health will thank you!
Need more info?
Barker, Joanne. “Oral Health: The Mouth-Body Connection”. WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/oral-health-the-mouth-body-connection
Woodham, Chai. “Mind Your Mouth: How Oral Health Affects Overall Health”. U.S.News & World Report.