Brushing twice a day is good for your breath and gums and all, but it also helps out your whole body.
Francesco D’Aiuto, senior lecturer at the Eastman Dental Institute in London, chatted with The Guardian about what he refers to as the the “mouth-body connection,” or the idea that a healthy body is strongly correlated with good dental hygiene.
“The mouth is not disconnected from the rest of the body,” he explained. “People should not underestimate what the body senses when the mouth is neglected.”
What exactly is D’Aiuto referring to when he talks about neglecting the mouth? Gum disease, for one, which ranges from minor inflammation of the gums to major damage to the gums and bones caused by plaque and tartar buildup, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
“In the middle of the day, [run your tongue] across your teeth right around the gum line. You’ll find something sticky or fuzzy,” Deepinder “Ruchi” Sahota, a dentist in Fremont, California, and a spokesperson for the American Dental Association, previously told The Huffington Post. “That’s plaque.”
The longer that plaque stays in place, the more likely it is to become tartar — that hard, yellow material between your teeth that can cause inflammation and bleeding. While brushing your teeth disrupts the bacteria and gets rid of plaque before it can become tartar, once you’ve skipped out on brushing one too many times, your toothbrush may not be enough to protect you once you get gum disease.
“When you have gum disease, the gums are effectively ulcerated inside, so they’re not forming a tight seal,” Francis Hughes, a professor of periodontology at King’s College London, told The Guardian. “Every time you eat or brush your teeth, it pushes bacteria into the body and triggers inflammation.”
And it doesn’t end with gum disease. Studies have shown that good dental hygiene is linked to lower risk of stroke and heart disease, pneumonia, unhealthy pregnancy, Alzheimers and erectile dysfunction.
That’s a long and scary list of conditions. Not totally sure that you’re taking good enough care of your teeth? We’ll keep it brief, but make sure your toothbrush has soft bristles and that you’re not brushing too hard, as that can cause abrasions. Brush for a solid 2-3 minutes, floss regularly and steer clear of toothpastes with baking soda, as they can be hard on the enamel and lead to cavities. You can read more about brushing mistakes here.