Did you know your mouth is home to billions of bacteria with more than 600 different species? The mouth is like it’s own ecosystem and you may not realize it, but keeping that bacteria in check not only helps maintain a healthy mouth, but could also be key to maintaining overall health.
"People don’t realize the connection between health of the mouth and health in the overall body. In fact, inflammation in the mouth is a precursor to inflammation in the rest of our body," says dentist and oral health expert Dr. Jonathan Levine.
Most people view brushing or flossing as just another part of the daily routine, but Levine says maintaining proper oral hygiene is more important than most people think. And sometimes it’s your dentist who could be the one to spot a larger problem.
"If we have inflammation in our gums we have unbelievable amount of evidence to show that there is inflammation in our blood vessels for cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and other chronic inflammatory diseases," says Levine.
He says once gums are inflamed bacteria from the mouth can enter the blood stream. And he says studies have also shown that plaque from the mouth can show up in the carotid artery leading to cardiovascular disease and stroke. So what should we do? Well for one, we should take our oral hygiene routine seriously and not rush through it.
"Very important you have to brush for two minutes. That’s 30 seconds a quadrant. And you have to floss at least every day. Only about 15 percent of the population flosses properly and one out of two Americans have gum disease, we can do better," suggests Levine.
Also, Levine says diet can also influence the balance between good and bad bacteria.
"Alkalinizing food, high pH, green leafy vegetables, colorful fruits, apples, kale, asparagus, any of these colorful fruits and vegetables will raise the pH in our mouths and create a better environment for the good bacteria," explains Levine.
So, if you’ve been avoiding the dentist’s chair or if you rush with the brush, now may be a good time to rethink your routine and take your oral hygiene to heart.