It’s taken the world a long time to fully appreciate just why teeth are important for staying healthy.
Obviously, what we eat and drink can greatly affect our health, but what about the state of our teeth and gums?
For most of history, our oral health and the health of the rest of the body were largely considered almost separate.
Today, we’re seeing a greater adoption of a more holistic approach to healthcare. The mouth is just as vital to our overall wellbeing as any other part of our body, and it’s important to realize the problems oral health concerns can cause elsewhere.
Teeth Help with Digestion
This is the biggest and most obvious point, and really, the one that everyone has always been painfully aware of.
The ability to bite and chew is a key aspect in keeping our digestive systems healthy and functional.
But that’s just because it makes food smaller and easier to break down, right?
That’s obviously a big part of it, but it’s not the whole story. The act of chewing actually prepares the digestive system to digest food. Enzymes are released in the saliva that aid the digestive process and make metabolism easier.
This is why you can actually get an upset stomach chewing gum. Your body is ready to receive and digest food, but when it does not get anything, that pent up activity has nothing to work on.
Likewise, it’s why juices and smoothies aren’t necessarily the best way to eat meals. Because you skip the chewing process, your body doesn’t release the enzymes early and your body doesn’t absorb the same level of nutrients.
Diseased Teeth Cause Health Problems
Gum disease and periodontitis are common oral health concerns.
These were typically considered problems exclusive to the mouth. The gums get red and swollen, tooth and bone get infected, but the rest of the body is fine.
Or so it was thought.
Intense study over many decades has found a link between oral diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis and other major health problems.
The most well-known is currently the link between oral diseases and cardiovascular disease.
Gingivitis and periodontitis are caused by bacterial infection. These infections can enter the bloodstream via the mouth and spread to other areas of the body. The presence of gum disease significantly increases the risk of a person suffering cardiovascular problems.
These diseases are also linked to complications such as preterm births and uncontrolled diabetes.
Keeping the teeth healthy and free of infection can greatly reduce the risk of many health complications elsewhere in the body.
Teeth Keep Jaws Healthy and Strong
The presence of teeth in the jaw keeps the jaw in shape — literally and figuratively.
Cells in our bodies are constantly being replaced by new cells. This is one of the reasons our appearance subtly changes over time — bone slightly reshapes, tissue deposits shift in size.
When a tooth is taken out of the jaw, the jaw is left with a void where the tooth root used to be. With nothing to support the bone, the jaw will gradually collapse into this space.
This can lead to many problems:
• Loss of bone volume, leading to decreased bite strength.
• Teeth “tipping” in to fill the gap left by the missing tooth.
• Over-relying on the opposite side of the jaw to the missing tooth, which can result in chips, cracks, and even breaks in other teeth.
• Increased risk in infection in the exposed gum area.
Replacing a missing tooth as quickly as possible is the goal of any dentist in an emergency situation.
When a tooth is knocked loose, the first course of action is to try to replace the tooth back into the jaw where possible.
If the tooth is missing, decayed beyond repair, or destroyed, finding a suitable prosthetic replacement is the next best thing.
There are many options for replacing a missing tooth, but the gold standard is the dental implant. It’s the only option which allows a dentist to replace a tooth down to the very root.
Doing this provides the much-needed support in the jawbone that other replacements simply cannot offer. The implant sits approximately where the root used to be, preventing the jaw from caving in and adjacent teeth from tipping over.
They’re also long-lasting, provide superior aesthetics, and prevent the need to interfere with otherwise health teeth on either side.