Have you heard these sayings:
“Abs are made in the kitchen.”
“You are what you eat.”
There’s truth in both of those phrases as what we eat can play a huge role in the overall health of our body as well as our weight.
But, while we often center our thoughts around what goes into our mouths in that regard, how much do we consider the actual health of our mouth when it comes to both our weight and our health in general?
That’s probably an odd thought to even ponder. I mean, how often do we think of our oral health in regards to body weight?
So, this begs the question: does dental hygiene affect weight?
If you’ve noticed that the scale has been dishearteningly moving in the upward direction, dental hygiene may actually be the culprit!
How Oral Hygiene Can Affect Weight
Many studies of late are showing gum disease to be a major risk factor for other conditions, diseases, and ailments in the body.
Gum disease, simply defined, is infection in the soft tissues of your mouth.
Basically, poor oral hygiene can cause bacteria to build up in those soft tissues, leading to infection. Left untreated, the infection can spread even to the bones that support your teeth.
But, how on earth can this affect your waistline?
The thing is, this presence of harmful bacteria can lead to inflammation in your mouth. But, it can also spread, causing systemic inflammation, which affects your entire body.
Inflammation anywhere within your body triggers a signal causing your body to react.
If you have ongoing inflammation, even in your mouth (from something like gum disease that results from poor oral hygiene) then your body will continue to react by releasing inflammatory proteins to counteract this inflammation.
Unfortunately, those proteins can then hinder the function of important hormones that are responsible for aiding your body in maintaining weight and monitoring energy usage (which can affect your metabolism).
And, that’s only one way poor oral hygiene can affect your weight. Inflammation’s sword is more complicated than a measly double-edge that cuts in two ways at one time.
- Inflammation anywhere in the body contributes to fatigue, making it more difficult to get adequate (and needed) exercise.
- Fat cells also release inflammatory proteins, so even something like battling gum disease while being overweight can work as a double whammy in regards to inflammation and then further weight gain.
- The particular bacteria that cause gum disease have been found to also cause metabolic dysfunction and can even change the makeup of your gut bacteria (a major factor in weight and overall health).
Prolonged infection with the bacteria that cause gum disease can even lead to insulin resistance.
Most often insulin resistance is associated with diabetes, but the overall function of insulin may be a focus that can help us fully understand the correlation between periodontal disease and weight gain.
Research Connecting Dental Hygiene And Weight Gain
Recently, researchers conducted a study centered around how insulin helps transport glucose from the blood to tissues, namely skeletal tissue, where one fourth of insulin is stored.
The goal of this study was to see how infection caused by periodontal bacteria could lead to alterations in skeletal tissue which then leads to metabolic syndrome.
First, researchers used blood tests to observe the levels of antibodies (specific to gum disease) present in the blood of patients with metabolic syndrome. And, in doing so they found a link between the presence of these antibodies and an increased resistance to insulin.
In other words, those patients with metabolic syndrome were likely to have also had instances of periodontal disease causing their bodies to create antibodies in response to the infection.
At this point in the study, researchers conducted the following experiment with mice:
- Mice were fed a high fat diet and then some were given the bacteria that causes gum disease by mouth.
- The mice that were given the bacteria developed insulin resistance, less glucose uptake to skeletal tissue, and increased fat infiltration.
Further observations revealed that the gut microbiome of the mice who had been given the gum disease bacteria was significantly altered, showing a relationship between periodontal bacterial infection with the development of metabolic syndrome.
Moral of the story: Periodontal disease can have an affect on your entire body! It can affect your waistline due to inflammation, and it can affect your waistline within the bounds of metabolic syndrome as well, which also includes numerous other ailments and conditions.
Best Oral Hygiene Practices To Ensure A Healthy Mouth And A Healthy Body
You get it now, poor dental hygiene can lead to periodontal disease, inflammation, weight gain, and a host of other conditions in relation to metabolic syndrome.
So, what can you do to ensure your mouth, and your body, is healthy?
1- Brush Your Teeth!
Okay, for most of us, brushing is a normal habit because…eww…who doesn’t brush their teeth??
BUT…are you brushing frequently enough?
I can recall my elementary school days where our school nurse would come around to each and every classroom with this gigantic toothbrush and a fake mouth. She’d brush those pretend teeth while emphasizing the importance of brushing in the morning, before bedtime, and even after meals.
And, those elementary school reminders happened bi-annually (at least).
So, why was this drilled into our brains? Why the repetition and the use of memorable props for emphasis? Well…because of everything you’ve read in this article up to this point!
Oral hygiene affects far more than just your mouth. The health of your entire body is linked to your mouth!
And, technique matters here as well. I can still hear that same school nurse giving instructions in regards to Mr. Happy Mouth: 2 minutes, gently, in a circular motion. And, the advice remains the same today, giant fake mouth as a prop or not.
2- Not Just Teeth, But Tongue Too
Unfortunately, your teeth aren’t the only place that plaque and harmful bacteria can live. Your tongue can be a haven for these gum-disease causing germs. So, brush your tongue as well!
Bonus tip: brushing your tongue helps to get rid of bad breath.
As we’ve heard from our childhood years (yes, my school nurse emphasized this one as well), flossing is just as essential as brushing. Yet…most skip this crucial step.
If unspooling, snipping, and using floss presents as a difficulty for you, just remember, there are a number of new products that make flossing a breeze.
From small flossing picks, to toothbrush sized handles with floss affixed to the ends, search for a product that works for you, and stick with it!
Food, sugar, bacteria, germs…they can all get stuck between your teeth and hide there causing infection to spread through your whole mouth.
Brushing alone can’t reach these tight areas, which makes flossing a necessary step in avoiding gum disease and ensuring a healthy mouth.
That exclamation point in the heading here is fully intentional.
I can’t stress the importance of hydration enough. Your mouth needs water.
Sure, it can help flush out excess foods left behind after eating. But, dry mouth and dehydration can also lead to an imbalance of healthy oral bacteria.
Proper hydration ensures you have a sufficient amount of saliva, which keeps the pH levels in your mouth balanced.
And, imbalances in pH levels in your mouth can mean a welcoming environment where harmful bacteria can thrive, leading to infection. So, drink up! (water that is)
5- Regular Dental Checkups
Be sure to visit your dentist approximately every six months. Your dentist can be on the lookout for potential problems, remove a build up of tartar, and check for cavities.
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