No matter the surplus benefits, caring for your teeth is a good thing on its own
Breaking News: flossing won’t fix all of your health problems.
It won’t repair your broken leg. It won’t lessen the severity of your festive season headaches. Brushing your teeth is not a cure for arthritis.
I’m here to tell you that flossing is not going to help you find your car keys, make you better appreciate fine art, or help you fill out your tax return on time. There are zero medical studies linking good oral hygiene to reduced incidences of ingrown toenails, tennis elbow or vertigo.
It’s depressing, the idea that flossing won’t cure everything that ails you. It’d be great if it did. But it won’t.
But, despite the lack of its miracle curative properties, it’s still something you should do anyway.
Every other day, an article will pop up on your social media feed, or somewhere in the media telling you about some new breakthrough which finds that there are developments in curing something to do with your teeth.
Something bad. Usually, something medically related, and often, totally avoidable. I’ve addressed this previously, how people got all excited about the idea of restoring enamel in teeth, which would be nice if it was a useful development and wasn’t for a) extracted teeth in b) mice.
I recently saw an article which said, somewhat cryptically, “A Strange Link Between Brushing Your Teeth And Heart Health Keeps Showing Up”
The piece reported on a study of 161,286 people in Korea, which found that brushing your teeth is linked to a lower risk of atrial fibrillation (a type of arrhythmia) and heart failure.
The article also says, “research from 2017 analysing data from nearly a million people found no relationship between tooth loss and cardiovascular disease.”
Not such excellent news.
It’s not such a good thing to read if your whole professional life is devoted to telling people how important dental care and hygiene is. A sentence like that one in an article like the one I saw online may very well be saying “Don’t bother taking care of your teeth, if it won’t help prevent heart attacks.”
As a dentist, I’m always telling people how important it is that they floss, brush and generally look after their teeth – it’s part of the job. I’m discouraged that there are pieces being published that suggest that there is some doubt linking good oral hygiene to less incidences of illness X, Y or Z.
“Further research is required before we can say anything for sure,” it goes on to say.
You don’t want to read this kind of thing, ever. There’s no real benefit to it, even if the news is good.
Here’s a news flash: TAKING CARE OF YOUR TEETH IS REASON ENOUGH!
Sorry to shout, but it’s a point worth making (loudly). Flossing and brushing have innumerable benefits to your oral hygiene and, happily enough, your overall health. Infections that start in your mouth can lead to more severe conditions. Gingivitis, a common inflammation of the gums – can develop into periodontitis, a more serious issue which can cause you to lose your teeth. Mouth infections can, and have been linked to further issues, including asthma, arthritis, respiratory problems, and stroke. Even death.
As a dentist, I’m always telling people how important it is that they floss, brush and generally look after their teeth – it’s part of the job. I’m discouraged that there are pieces being published that suggest that there is some doubt linking good oral hygiene to less incidences of illness X, Y or Z. Because there are just as many – if not more – studies linking it to help preventing any number of other conditions one would do well to avoid.
Research aside, there has always been, and will forever be a link between good oral hygiene and good common sense. Even if there weren’t multiple additional health benefits to looking after your teeth and gums (which there are), the single benefit of just taking good care of your teeth is reason enough to look after them properly.
Visiting a dentist regularly can allow you the opportunity to have them determine if you’ve become susceptible to any number of conditions, including but not limited to vitamin deficiencies, acid reflux, tooth grinding, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart problems, dementia, mental health issues, and oral cancers.
So, even if that minty waxed string you should be using every day won’t make you a better dancer, it will help you look after your teeth. Which is something worth doing, right?
Dr. Gautam Herle, BDS, MDS, is a principal dentist at Myers Street Dental Clinic in Geelong. He has been practicing dentistry in the Geelong region for more than a decade and is currently earning his Masters in Laser Dentistry.