By Dr Fred Calavassy (BDS, FICD, FPFA), Clinical Director and Clinical Advisory Board Chair of Maven Dental

For many, the concept of wellness often relates to self-care activities like yoga and meditation but it means so much more than that. Our total state of wellness takes into account our holistic health, influenced by our day-to-day choices we make and the lifestyle we lead. There are eight mutually important dimensions of holistic wellness: Physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, vocational, financial, and environmental. All these dimensions must always be nurtured and cared for.

Most of the time, it is a constant struggle balancing all dimensions to achieve a sense of total wellness.

The key to wellness success is living a healthy life through regular exercise, having a balanced diet and getting enough rest. But there is one major enabler that can have big implications in your health and wellness journey – your oral health.

A healthy mouth and a healthy body go hand in hand. Understanding the close relationship between oral health and general health and the impact one has on the other is extremely important and will support the move to general wellness at all stages of life. The condition of your teeth and gums affects other areas of your general health, whilst your general wellbeing can have significant impacts on your mouth.

This might be surprising to many but a deeper look into your mouth can reveal some telling details about your general wellness and even be the key to identifying and treating related health conditions. From a restless nights’ sleep to impacted facial growth and development, oral health can greatly impact our holistic wellness in the following ways.

Our sleep

We all know the importance of a good nights’ sleep for our bodies to repair, replenish and restore all our vital functions. Getting in your forty winks also reduces stress and inflammation, keeps your heart healthy, improves your memory and best of all, keeps you awake and alert during those tiresome work meetings or lectures.

Do you often find yourself waking up in the morning feeling unrested, with a pounding headache, a dry mouth or even a stiff jaw? Your oral health and associated structures might be to blame. The link between oral health and a good night’s sleep are well established.

For example, grinding your teeth throughout the night, known as Bruxism, can cause some serious damage to your teeth, mouth and lead to sleep deprivation. Chronic teeth grinding can result in a cracked tooth enamel, excessive wear, tension headaches, jaw pain, broken teeth, tooth sensitivity, and toothaches.

Achieving a good nights’ sleep is even more difficult for those suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). People who have OSA tend to snore or sleep with their mouths open, which makes them more prone to developing opportunistic bacteria due to the lack of saliva flow. A dry mouth allows harmful bacteria to have free reign to digest any sugars from leftover food debris and with a low salivary flow or dry mouth, acids from bacteria in plaque on the teeth are not as easily neutralized leading to a higher rate of cavities developing on your teeth.

Our bone structure

Did you know that your lower jaw bone, the mandible, is the largest bone in your skull? Your mandible is the movable component of the mastication system allowing you the ability to chew your food as part of the first stage of digestion. But this important structural bone can be greatly damaged from improper dental hygiene leading to bone damage, lip support collapse and possible tooth loss.

Periodontitis, a chronic infection that affects the gums and the bones that support the teeth, has the ability to significantly weaken your jaw bone. With periodontitis, bacteria and the body’s own immune system break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place causing them to eventually become loose, fall out, or have to be removed.

Our heart health

Research shows our oral and heart health are closely connected. The inflammatory responses of gum disease and the bacteria which contribute to the progression of gum disease have an important correlation to the heart health.

It is important to stay vigilant and watch out for an emerging symptoms of gum disease in its early stages to begin treatment immediately. Some common symptoms include:

  • Your gums are red, swollen and sore to the touch
  • Your gums bleed when you eat, brush or floss
  • You notice pus or other signs of infection around the gums and teeth
  • Your gums look as if they are “pulling away” from the teeth
  • You frequently have bad breath or notice a bad taste in your mouth
  • Notice that some of your teeth are loose, or feel as if they are moving away from the other teeth

Our breathing

Ideally, we should be breathing through our noses since the purpose of the nose is not just to make you look good, but to warm, humidify and filter the air which we breathe. With a nasal airway obstruction (blocked nose), such as a cold, allergy, or physical blockage, we are then forced to breathe through our mouth. As a mouth breather, every single time we inhale and exhale, it involves our mouth and this can cause a dry mouth which can promote gum disease, chronic bad breath and tooth decay.

Breathing through your mouth can also have surprising implications for your lungs too. Your nose actually acts as a filter, purifying the air that enters your nasal passage and your lungs – helping reduce any nasty bacteria entering your lungs and causing infection. It is also believed that mouth breathing may also decrease lung function and worsen symptoms in people with pre-existing breathing conditions.

In developing children, mouth breathing may lead to an altered tongue posture which may modify the forces applied to the developing jaws. This may impact facial growth and development leading to tooth crowding, restricted jaws, aesthetic issues which may require more complex orthodontic treatment as the child gets older.

Prevention is better than a cure

Luckily, all of these complications are preventable in many cases! It is truly as simple as regular visits to the dentist, maintaining a healthy diet, drinking enough water as well as brushing and flossing your teeth twice daily. After all, prevention is so much better than a cure – especially when it comes to our overall health and wellness.

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