oral health and wellbeing

The Surprising Connection Between Oral Health and Overall Wellbeing

Did you know that your oral health can affect your overall wellbeing? Yes, really! Your oral health is more important than you realise, especially since an alarming 3.5 billion people across the globe are affected by oral disease, with tooth decay becoming one of the most common diseases in society today.

Most oral health conditions are largely preventable and can be treated earlier on. However, oral health treatment is expensive and is not usually part of universal health coverage. Moreover, low and middle income countries are unable to provide services to prevent or treat oral health conditions due to associated costs, leading to rapid growth in poor oral health worldwide.

So, what exactly causes poor oral health?

With a continual increase in urbanisation and changes in living conditions, poor oral health has become more frequent amongst the global population. This has gradually occurred over time and has been caused by a multitude of issues such as inadequate exposure to fluoride, availability and affordability of food with high sugar content as well as deprivation of oral health care services within the community.

And how does this contribute to our overall wellbeing?

Oral health is a key indicator of health, wellbeing and quality of life. Poor oral health can lead to detrimental diseases and long term conditions such as tooth decay, gum disease, tooth loss, oral cancer as well as gangrenous disease affecting the face and mouth. There have also been a number of theories suggesting that bacteria infecting the gums alongside the body’s natural immune response to foreign bodies cause vascular damage throughout the body.

Another thing to take into account is that most of these oral diseases and conditions share risk factors with the leading non communicable diseases which include cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes. A study published in 2018 reported that there was a moderate correlation between tooth loss (which is a measure of poor oral health) and coronary heart disease. Therefore, it’s vital that we take our oral health more seriously.

What measures can we take to improve our oral health?

Whilst there are a number of ways to combat poor oral health in order to lead a healthier lifestyle, it is worth noting that oral diseases disproportionally affect the poor and disadvantaged members of society; this has been demonstrated by the positive correlation between socioeconomic status and the prevalence and severity of oral diseases. Nevertheless, public health interventions can immensely reduce this by addressing common risk factors which include:

  • Promoting a well balanced diet (low in sugars and high in fruit & vegetables)
  • Avoiding all tobacco products and reducing alcohol consumption
  • Chewing sugar free gum and flossing regularly
  • Encouraging use of protective equipment for daily activities (such as helmets for cycling) to prevent facial injuries
  • Brushing teeth twice daily with fluoride containing toothpaste (1000-1500 ppm)
  • Replacing toothbrushes every 3-4 months (or sooner if bristles are worn)
  • Scheduling regular dental checkups and cleaning appointments

The bottom line

Taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health and wellbeing. It is apparent that individuals from a low socioeconomic status are more likely to be affected by oral diseases due to a deprivation of oral health services within their communities. However, there are many cost effective steps which can be undertaken to improve oral health as outlined previously; one of these is chewing sugar free gum which has profound effects on our physiological functions as well as proven to reduce anxiety and stress. Moreover, it’s affordable, readily available and can be quite a pleasant activity to partake in for many of us.

So, next time you’re chewing sugar free gum, remember that it’s actually very beneficial for both your health and wellbeing. Learn more about the benefits of SFG here.

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