Healthy Mouth, Healthy Teeth, Healthy You

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Good health requires more than just eating right and exercising. Taking care of your mouth and teeth helps your body fight bacteria and infection, too.

Think of your mouth as the “defense” in a football game. “Your mouth includes tonsils and lymphoid tissue whose job it is to recognize and fight off bacteria and infection,” explains Zachary Townsend, DO. “If you don’t take care of your mouth, you’re leaving yourself susceptible to disease. Even simple conditions like a toothache, cavity, or injury can affect the way you eat, drink, or talk. This can ultimately affect your quality of life and your ability to complete tasks or activities at home or work.”

What Health Issues Can Be Caused By Poor Oral Health?

Poor oral health has been linked to:

On the flip side, anything that can affect the immune system can also affect the health of your mouth, says Dr. Townsend. “This includes tobacco use, diabetes, HIVsome prescription medications, and drug abuse.”

When Should I Get Medical Attention?

You should seek medical advice if you have swelling or bleeding in your mouth or on your gums, Dr. Townsend explains. This could be a sign of gum disease. “Any discoloration, pain, or difficulty eating, speaking, or swallowing could be signs of cavities or an abscess. And of course any injury or trauma to the teeth, gums, tongue, or mouth needs medical attention.”

Establish Good Oral Habits

If you don’t have a good oral routine, it’s not too late to start:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss your teeth at least once a day.
  • Don’t smoke or chew tobacco. It can stain your teeth, give you bad breath, and cause cancer.
  • Wear protective headgear when playing sports.
  • Check your mouth regularly for sores or irritation.
  • See your dentist every six months for a check-up and cleaning.

Follow these tips for babies:

  • Clean your baby’s teeth with a wet washcloth every day. Switch to a toothbrush when the teeth get bigger.
  • Don’t use toothpaste until age 2.
  • Don’t allow your baby to go to sleep with a bottle. The liquid can cause tooth decay.
  • Discourage sugary snacks and sticky, chewy candy.
  • Take your child to the dentist regularly beginning at age 1 (as recommended by the American Dental Association.

To learn more about good oral hygiene, talk to your doctor or health care provider or search for a provider.

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