Your teeth and your health
“Teeth! They are very much in style. They must be very much worthwhile! . . . They sure are handy when you smile. So keep your teeth around awhile.”
—Dr. Seuss, The Tooth Book
You and your teeth will have a very long relationship, so you want to make sure it’s a healthy relationship, because when your teeth are healthy, the chances are your whole body is healthy, too. “Bacteria live in your mouth,” Dr. Ryan Roberson of RR Dentistry explains. “If there’s a lot of inflammation in your mouth, if your gums are bleeding, then that bacteria can enter into your bloodstream. This can compromise your arteries, veins, and heart. People don’t realize that.”
Dr. Cory Roach, also of RR Dentistry, acknowledges that medical emergencies resulting from an abscessed tooth or a chronic infection in the mouth are the exception today rather than the norm. “That’s why medicine is great,” Dr. Roberson asserts, “and going to the dentist regularly is so beneficial.”
Just as an annual physical is important to keep your body healthy, prevention is key with routine dental care. Dentists can catch problems and concerns in their earliest stages, and they can apply sealants and fluoride treatments to keep teeth healthy.
Three main factors affect not only your teeth but also your health: genetics, homecare, and diet. People who are genetically predisposed to have high levels of bacteria in their mouths, people who don’t brush and floss their teeth consistently, and people who have a steady diet of sodas, sugars, and starches hit “the trifecta,” as Dr. Roberson says, of dental concerns. “But we can all control what we eat. We can control how much time we spend cleaning our teeth,” he says. “The only thing we can’t control is our genetics.”
Dr. Roach adds, “A lot of people think they’re just going to lose their teeth, that it’s part of the natural aging process, but it’s not. There’s no reason why anyone should lose their teeth as long as they’re taking care of them. Even with poor genetics, no one is doomed to lose all of their teeth.”
It all comes down to the value we place on dental hygiene and health. “If you take care of your teeth,” Dr. Roach says, “they should be with you forever. It’s not like they have a life expectancy that’s much shorter than yours.” And that’s good news for everyone’s smile.