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Why Brushing Your Teeth is Good For Your Brain

Introduction

“Brush your teeth!” is a phrase most kids hear from their parents as they are growing up.

Dental hygiene is an important part of everyone’s daily life. How you feel about your smile actually has a profound impact on your self-esteem. Researchers out of Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands have found that your smile has a significant psychosocial effect on how you perceive yourself as well as how you are perceived.

You may not realize it, but choices based on appearance and perception happen all the time.  Studies show that 55% of a person’s opinion is driven by physical appearance (smile, body language) and first impressions are formed within seven to 17 seconds.   Therefore, keeping your teeth as healthy as possible can go a long way.

Following your dentist’s advice may not seem like the most likely way to protect the brain, but flossing and brushing may have a profound impact on your brain health.

Your Brain When You Don’t Brush

As previously stated, your smile is an important part of how you present yourself to others and affects how you perceive yourself. For example, people with imperfect teeth may find themselves embarrassed or uncomfortable in social situations. As a result, poor dental health can negatively affect your confidence and self-esteem.

Poor self-esteem is linked to long-term health problems such as anxiety and depression (2).

Moreover, a survey conducted in England found that the fewer teeth a person had, the lower their cognitive function (3). Another survey conducted 12 months later found similar results in the United States (4).

Past research has shown a strong association between gum disease and heart disease, but the association with stroke seems to be even more pronounced.

There is even research demonstrating that people who have poor oral health are predisposed to diseases that cause memory loss such as dementia and Alzheimer’s (5).

Finally, poor oral health breeds harmful bacteria, particularly Porphyromonas Gingivalis.  Porphyromonas Gingivalis is considered a significant contributor to chronic periodontitis and minor conditions such as gingivitis. Research has linked these chronic gum diseases with cognitive decline.

Education is Important

A common denominator among the research connecting poor dental hygiene and brain health is education. As unfair as it may sound, the majority of people who have poor dental health also have lower levels of education.

Here are some facts about education and dental health:

  • People with lower education levels commonly have poor dental hygiene habits.
  • People with lower education levels more often make less money in their lifetime than people with higher education levels.
  • People with lower education levels often do not have regular access to a dentist due to lower income and/or lack of dental insurance coverage.

Did you Know:

  • Tooth decay (dental caries) affects U.S. children more than any other chronic infectious disease.
  • Untreated tooth decay can cause pain and infections that inhibit eating, speaking, playing, learning, and being successful in school.
  • Untreated infections in the mouth also put children at risk for infections in their ears, sinuses and other parts of their bodies.

Schools are an under-utilized resource for children’s health and oral health. The combination of education, prevention, and access to care has the potential to nearly eliminate tooth decay in school-age children, and empower them as adults to keep their teeth healthy. As a company, we promise to never get too political.  However, please vote for candidates who support these types of programs in schools!

What Can You Do To Keep Your Teeth and Brain Happy?

Even if you have good dental insurance coverage, your dentist will likely only see you once or twice a year, so it’s important you keep a healthy routine for the rest of the time! We call this “home care.”

Be sure to eat balanced meals, reduce your intake of sugary snacks and use your toothbrush correctly.

You should brush your teeth at least twice per day, and especially before going to bed, using a soft-bristled brush and toothpaste.

1.       Gently brush using a small, circular motion, ensuring you always feel the bristles on your gums.

2.       Brush the outer, inner and biting surfaces of each tooth.

3.       Use the tip of the brush to clean the inside of the front teeth.

4.       Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.

Brushing should also be accompanied by daily flossing, which cleans between teeth while disrupting the buildup of plaque under and around the gums.

These truly are simple steps if you are concerned about your overall health. And with Alzheimer’s disease so prevalent today, lowering your risk for cognitive decline should be at the top of your agenda.

Citations

  1. Van der Geld, P., Oosterveld, P., Van Heck, G., & Kuijpers-Jagtman, A. M. (2007). Smile attractiveness: self-perception and influence on personality. The Angle Orthodontist, 77(5), 759-765.
  2. Sowislo, J. F., & Orth, U. (2013). Does low self-esteem predict depression and anxiety? A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological bulletin, 139(1), 213.
  3. Stewart, R., & Hirani, V. (2007). Dental health and cognitive impairment in an English national survey population. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 55(9), 1410-1414.
  4. Stewart, R., Sabbah, W., Tsakos, G., D’aiuto, F., & Watt, R. G. (2008). Oral health and cognitive function in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). Psychosomatic medicine, 70(8), 936-941.
  5. Kim, J. M., Stewart, R., Prince, M., Kim, S. W., Yang, S. J., Shin, I. S., & Yoon, J. S. (2007). Dental health, nutritional status and recent‐onset dementia in a Korean community population. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry: A journal of the psychiatry of late life and allied sciences, 22(9), 850-855.

 

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