Is oral health a window to your soul?
I have heard that Oral Health is a window to your soul. It is a road map of how you take care of yourself. From where you have come from and how you will get to where you are going. The World Health Organization says Oral health is a key indicator of overall health, well-being and quality of life.
We focus on nutrition, fitness, and general wellness as keys to longevity. To a long, happy, healthy life. But we tend to neglect the link connecting all three. And that link is our oral health.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA): 'A bidirectional relationship exists between oral health and diet and nutrition. Diet and nutrition effects the health of the tissues in the mouth; the health of the mouth affects nutrients consumed.'
And there is a direct correlation between poor oral health and the fact that we are living with and dying from the most widespread and very often preventable noncommunicable diseases in the world: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, obesity, a range of cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson's, pneumonia and complications in pregnancy.
And all of these preventable diseases are increasing globally.
So what is this 'bidirectional relationship,' and can we eat differently to make a difference? Can we change what we see in that window to our soul? Can we reverse those preventable diseases? Can we make our teeth happy? I asked Dr. Peter Jacobsen, Ph.D., DDS, Diplomat of the American Board of Oral Medicine, to clarify this. Please listen here to my talk with Dr. Jacobsen.
In our talk, Dr. Jacobsen discussed this relationship, stating oral health is like the age-old question: which came first, the chicken or the egg? (Science may have unscrambled that riddle if you are curious about that egg or chicken dilemma). Does poor or inadequate nutrition affect oral health, or does poor or insufficient oral health affect nutrition?
Dental decay and infected teeth and gums can be the source of infections that occur throughout the body. Decayed or missing teeth can interfere with proper chewing, leading to nutritional deficiencies and health issues.
Therefore, our mission, should you accept it, is to prevent infected gums and tooth decay. That sounds more complicated than it is!
There are several ways to do that. First and foremost, we must eat food that is best for oral health. And second is to take care of those pearly whites after you eat.
Dr. Jacobsen mentioned several nutrients we consume that significantly impact our oral health. Unsurprisingly, the consumption of sugars was the first on his list. Sugar increases the risk of developing tooth decay (dental caries) and periodontitis.
Any discussion about sugar is complicated. Sugars' relationship to Noncommunicable diseases goes well beyond oral health. But for this discussion, we are not focused on whether you should or should not eat sugar or how your body and those preventable diseases are affected by the sugar consumed. We can not survive without sugar. The critical question today is how to eat sugar and not negatively impact oral health. Which, of course, affects your body and those preventable diseases.
Oral health is most affected by refined sugar in most of our food. Sugars, which come in many shapes and forms, are all considered carbohydrates. They are common in all sticky carbohydrates such as rice, bread, pasta, and chewy candies. Naturally occurring sugars in foods such as dried fruit, particularly raisins, could be the worst for you to consume. This is especially true at night before bed because they stick to your teeth, which creates an oral health disaster. Hence, eating foods that do not include added refined sugar does not mean you are not eating sugar. Those "hidden sugars "can be an oral health nightmare.
And this relationship is no surprise. It is certainly not news that we Supersize everything, mainly with our food, which includes a supersized dose of sugar. We supersize our sodas, portions, deserts, big Macs, fries, etc. The US Soda market is currently an $80.6 billion industry, and the US candy market is projected to grow to a $19.6 Billion industry by 2025. According to The American Heart Association, Americans eat nearly 60 pounds of added sugar annually. That's a lot of sugar! And as our sweet tooth drives much of what we eat, it's no wonder our oral health is at its worst in decades.
So how can we succeed in our mission to reverse this trend toward bad oral health? Dr. Jacobsen did mention in our talk that while we can change the future, we cannot change the past or the damage already done. Teeth and gums do not grow back. But we can prevent things from getting worse. There is no time like the present to reverse that trend.
Here are some dietary suggestions:
Stop drinking soda (you can begin by cutting back on the supersize).
Modify your intake of sticky carbohydrates. Especially before you go to sleep. Dr. Jacobsen says sticky carbohydrates are the worst possible food you can eat for oral health. These get caught between your teeth and stay there. That is the kiss of tooth decay death.
You MUST floss and clean those pearly whites, especially after eating those sticky carbohydrates. How many times have we all heard that in our lives (like every time we see our dentist). But, the old saying, you only need to brush and floss the teeth you intend to save for a lifetime, was true and is still true.
Watch for those hidden sugars.
And most importantly, know what you are eating! Read your labels. Know all about the sugar you are eating. And cut back on that 60 lbs.
In my blog series 'Over The Counter Sports Nutrition' I will talk in detail about good and bad sugars, how you consume them, where they come from, and how they affect you. And this is all based on understanding how to read that nutrition label. Please follow me as I explore OTC Sports Nutrition in detail.
So yes, oral health does affect our life of longevity. One small daily step for oral health is a big lifetime step to achieving a long, healthy, and happy life.
Your teeth and your body (and those that love you) will be very happy you are still with them and smiling!
Your friend and fellow Bluerisa traveler,