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The Health Rewards of a Great Smile

Many people have a negative view of dentists. The experience of visiting a dentist and getting a checkup can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful, so we decide from an early age that we just don’t like going to the dentist. These feelings can become so strong that we delay appointments and sometimes avoid going to the dentist altogether.

Unfortunately, not going to the dentist leads to Habits of Disease and can put you at risk for serious health complications. On the other hand, the rewards for taking care of your oral health are significant. With a few simple Habits of Health, you can potentially extend your longevity by preventing disease. At the same time, these habits will also make your visits to the dentist less uncomfortable because you will have avoided the problems that can make your dental visit longer and more intrusive.

Before we talk about your Habits of Health, let’s briefly review the risks that poor oral health pose:

  • Gum disease – A problem in itself, gum disease may also increase your risk of other health complications.
  • Cardiovascular disease – The inflammation caused by bacteria in your mouth may affect your arteries and may contribute to strokes and other forms of health disease.
  • Endocarditis – An infection in your heart’s inner lining, endocarditis is often caused by germs from other parts of your body (like your mouth) spreading through your blood stream.
  • Cancer – Poor oral health could lead to oral cancer and might also be linked to other types of cancers that present in other parts of your body.

To learn more about the risks of poor oral health, you can visit the Mayo Clinic or the CDC.

To guard yourself against these risks and to reap the rewards, here are the Habits of Health guidelines for good oral health:

  • Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss daily.
  • Get a yearly checkup from your dentist.
  • Have your teeth cleaned twice a year.
  • Don’t use tobacco products.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation if at all.
  • Use lip balm that contains sunscreen.
  • Avoid lipsticks that do not contain sunscreen (the pigment in lipstick can actually intensify UV damage in some cases).
  • Keep your oral cavity moist by taking sips of water or chewing sugar free gum.
  • Maintain Habits of Healthy Eating (less sugar, no soft drinks, a good supply of nutrients, etc.).

As far as Habits of Health go, the effort required for most of these guidelines is relatively small, especially if you incorporate them into your daily routine. Brushing your teeth when you get ready for work, and brushing your teeth and flossing as part of your nightly relaxation ritual (a part of your Habits of Healthy Sleep) should just become a part of your day. Regular cleaning and dental visits will help you to identify and address problems before they are serious (and much more painful). And other habits like tobacco use and alcohol consumption might be more challenging, but perhaps thinking about your longevity will help you to think more about your plan for addressing those areas of your health as well.

And on top of all this, don’t forget that being confident in your smile is a powerful reward in its own right. Our lives and the lives of the people we love are best when we can share a genuine smile, and taking care of your teeth will help you to worry less about how you look and instead focus on all of the extra time you get to spend with the people you love.

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