Everyone appreciates a pain-free mouth and the pleasure we get when someone smiles at us. Do you remember how excited you were when you lost your first tooth and how gratifying it was when the last one came out? Having teeth opened our world to food and communication. But we learned that teething, cavities, and missing teeth could make eating uncomfortable. While schools recognize the importance of students having good dental health, corporate health and wellness programs and Blog tips to achieve overall good health and wellbeing most often neglect this area as an essential element for health and wellness.
You May Be Eating the Right Foods, But Have Poor Nutrition
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the oral cavity is where digestion starts. You hear so much about what the best foods are to eat, yet if oral health is compromised, you may not be getting the nutrition from the food you are ingesting. How you effectively chew your food has a significant bearing on how food is further broken down, absorbed and assimilated into your cells. Health and wellness can’t be achieved without good nutrition.
Pain and Infections Anywhere in the Body Compromise Health and Wellness
As a Biological health-focused dentist, I knew the importance of a medical, lifestyle, and environmental history. Systemic problems and emotional issues were often tied to oral infections and TMJ imbalances. And not so surprising, overall health and wellbeing were often restored with holistic dental interventions. Many chronic sinus problems dissipated when we diagnosed and treated infected upper teeth. Patients burdened by chronic debilitating headaches, back, and neck pain got sustained relief from dental treatment. Our referring doctors reported the frequency of post-op infections and pneumonia significantly decreased when patients got their teeth and gums cleaned before surgery.
Medical Histories and Health and Wellness Programs Omit the Grave Risks of Gum Disease
Everyday more studies are published in peer reviewed journals on the links of periodontal disease to heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, pre-term births, and low-birth weight babies. Yet, it’s still not a priority for physicians to proactively consider dental health. It’s a rarity for a medical history to include questions regarding periodontal disease, root canals, or TMJ problems. When tender, puffy, bleeding gums are overlooked at the medical examination, the doctors should be paying more attention to that periodontal condition as a marker for systemic inflammation. How many life-threatening cases of sub-acute bacterial endocarditis and valve replacements could be prevented by first addressing dental health and interventions?
A Clean Mouth Is Not the Sole Benchmark for Dental Health
That’s like believing washing your car protects the engine. There are other dental conditions – that when unrecognized, ignored, or dismissed as a health priority – further impair systemic problems and put stress on the entire body. It’s impossible to achieve sustainable health and wellness when there are underlying dental problems. You see oral care products advertised on TV that mostly are for whiter teeth, sensitive teeth, better fitting dentures, or fresher breath. Yet the opportunity for promotion of better overall health from oral care products is regrettably brushed aside.
All Factors Must Be Considered for Health and Wellness
Excellent health and wellness are difficult, if not impossible, to achieve when we are physically or emotionally stressed. Consider that trauma, deficiency of nutrients, lack of physical activity, infections, toxic exposures, structural imbalances, anxiety, work pressure, sleep disturbances, medications, drug and alcohol abuse, smoking, and dental stress each deplete health, and each varies in strength and duration. And they add on to one another where the sum is much greater than the individual stressor.
Of course, genetic makeup and environmental factors contribute to and influence the capacity for adapting, healing, or succumbing.
Oral Health Considerations Can Greatly Leverage Overall Health
Many well thought out health and wellness programs are set up to reduce the risks for heart disease and diabetes. Improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and body mass can follow fitness, nutritional counseling, smoking cessation, and stress management. But ignored or unrecognized relentless dental distress can undermine the gains. Here are a few examples.
- Obesity may have a bit to do with food selection. There could be a dental component such as missing teeth or painful gums or inadequate salivary flow that would make soft starchy foods easier to eat. Improper chewing of proteins could exacerbate digestive problems and prevent absorption of proper nutrients.
- Heart attack risks increase with periodontal disease. Bacteria in the gums travel to the heart. Diabetics and smokers have a higher incidence of gum disease thereby further increasing their risk for a heart attack and stroke.
- Sleep disturbances cause fatigue and affect decisions, mood, and safety when out and about. Some things to consider are sleep apnea, snoring, a toothache or sore facial muscles.
- Headaches, neck, and back pain can affect productivity and work attendance. Common, but overlooked dental influences may be bite or jaw imbalance, clenching or grinding, tooth movement from orthodontics, and infected teeth.
- Allergies and sensitivities may be aggravated by dental materials that may not be compatible with the immune system. Poor absorption of undigested food results from inadequate chewing and hurried swallowing where salivary enzymes don’t have the time to start the digestive process.
- Pregnancy complications are possibilities when gum disease is left untreated.
- Athletic performance such as flexibility, endurance, hand-eye coordination, recovery from injury can be affected by dental infections, jaw imbalances, and toxic restorative materials.
- Emotional stress may take its toll on the mouth manifesting in broken teeth, worn dentition, sensensitive teeth, jaw pain, facial pain, mouth ulcers, and less resistance to oral infections.
Health and Wellness involves an integrative approach of physical (including dental), mental and spiritual well-being. It’s the whole package where each aspect compliments one another to provide a well-balanced, vital and healthful life.