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Six Unexpected Reasons to Make Good Dental Hygiene

With the holidays just around the corner, you may be determined to turn over a new leaf when the clock strikes 2018. It may seem like an easy-way-out resolution to add improved oral hygiene, but many people would be surprised -- or even shocked -- to learn of the gigantic scope of health benefits that accompany a killer smile. Keeping your teeth and gums in good shape has unexpected benefits. Good dental hygiene may:

Drop your risk for diabetes

The connection between periodontal disease and diabetes appears to go both ways. Diabetes may increase your risk of periodontal disease, while having inflamed and receding gums may make diabetes more likely. As you get older, your chance of developing diabetes increases anyway, so attention to good oral hygiene makes sense, including regular cleanings and checkups at my office.

Help with continued virility

Though not fully understood, there’s a statistical connection between gum disease and erectile dysfunction. It’s suspected that bacteria resulting from poor oral hygiene spread through the body and complicate blood flow by inflaming blood vessel walls. This restricted blood flow may add to problems achieving and maintaining erections.

Decrease the risk of dementia

Migrating bacteria may also increase your chances for developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Again, it’s a connection that’s not fully understood, but studies show oral bacteria is present in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers, while healthy subjects had none. Researchers think maybe the bacteria trigger some kind of immune response that harms brain cells, leading to dementia.

Help a little with weight loss

One study shows that brushing your teeth six minutes a day adds up to about 3,500 calories burned annually. If you’re a habitual snacker, brushing your teeth can help you burn calories and throw in an added bonus: You’re less likely to eat with minty fresh breath. So if you’re a late-night snacker, brush your teeth early in the evening for both dental and weight control benefits.

Protect your heart and blood vessels

There may be a connection between gum disease and heart disease. Research is ongoing to nail down how they are linked, but chronic inflammation is a culprit in the development of both diseases. One theory is that oral bacteria from periodontal disease may contribute to plaques in the blood vessels that lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Promote a healthy pregnancy

A mild form of gum disease -- gingivitis -- is something pregnant women are prone to develop. Gingivitis can develop into periodontal disease, and when untreated gum disease enters the picture, many mothers may deliver prematurely or have babies with low birth weights. If you’re pregnant and only have one dental cleaning scheduled during your pregnancy, it might be a good idea to squeeze in an extra one.

A New Year’s gift

With all the benefits you can derive from your resolution to improve your dental hygiene, you deserve a reward for your good decision. How about some chocolate?

Dark chocolate contains a component called CBH, which comes from the husk of the cocoa bean. CBH naturally fights plaque formation and has antibacterial properties. While studies are ongoing, it looks good that dark chocolate is a treat you can enjoy without worry, but keep up the brushing and flossing for the other health benefits.  

Have a happy and healthy New Year!

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Guy A. Mangia, DDS

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