Caring for your teeth and gums is as important to your overall health as exercising, not smoking and not overeating. If you are pregnant, it could even prevent premature birth.

“You can’t have good overall health without good oral health,” says Dr. Anthony Iacopino (DMD, PhD), dean of the University of Manitoba faculty of dentistry and director of the International Centre for Oral-Systemic Health in Winnipeg.

When you don’t brush and floss properly, the biofilm (a layer of protein) on the teeth becomes loaded with bacteria. The bacteria accumulate on the teeth and cause swelling and destruction of gum tissue. Once that inflammation develops, it’s not limited to the mouth. It contributes to whole body inflammation because the oral bacteria and molecules involved in swelling enter your blood stream. This chronic inflammation in the body can make illnesses such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, heart disease, arthritis and colds worse, says Dr. Iacopino. It can also raise the risk of premature labour in pregnant women, or result in the baby being born with a low birth weight.

He suggests brushing and flossing twice a day (morning and night). Even rinsing with mouthwash is better than nothing. “Poor oral health has been linked to serious systemic diseases and poor quality of life as one gets older. For best health and enjoyment of life, pay attention to your oral health and make sure you do not have inflammation around your teeth.” Common signs of swelling are bleeding, loose teeth and constant bad breath. He suggests most people visit a dental professional for cleanings every six months. High risk people – people with heart disease, diabetes or pregnant women -- should visit the dental office more often.

“Brushing and flossing have been linked to a 10-year increase in life expectancy,” says Dr. Iacopino.

Latest From ...