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Oral Health and The Impact on Your Health

Whole body wellness is a combination of many things. It is healthy eating, moderate daily exercise, well-visits to your physicians and dentists, and a healthy mental outlook. Oral health is often overlooked but plays a huge role in the overall wellness puzzle. Oral health is related not only to checking for cavities on a quick dental visit, but it is of utter importance to your mind and your body’s total health.

As a dental hygienist for over 30 years, my goal is not just to make patients’ teeth white and shiny, but to share the importance of good oral hygiene and the connection it has to complete health and wellness. In addition, I hope to enlighten patients on other health issues, related to oral hygience, regarding the whole body and the mind.

A Smile Tells a Story

A person might have a clean and healthy mouth, with the gums free of gingivitis and periodontal disease, and teeth free of pain. Or a person might have straight, white teeth and fresh breath. All of these signs most likely point to a comfortable and confident individual. This likely leads to a more productive work life, and a happier personal life.

But when a person doesn’t smile, it could mean a lot of things. They could be sad, embarrassed of their teeth, in pain somewhere in their mouth, body, or even within their mind. A smile, and one’s oral health, are the beginnings to overall health and wellness. This is where the knowledge and prevention of periodontal disease ties into other issues affecting oral health. Periodontal disease, or bone loss and eventual tooth loss, can come from the following:

  • Basic daily neglect
  • Nicotine
  • Crowded teeth
  • Stress
  • Cancers
  • Medications
  • Medical illnesses
  • Foods
  • Brushing too hard

There are so many topics and connections that link oral health to overall whole body health and wellness. It is important to include this information when discussing nutrition, fitness, smoking cessation, mental health, and even financial health.

Incorporating Oral Health in Wellness Programs

In addition to better overall health, incorporating oral health in wellness programs has shown that costs can be reduced not only for individuals but also for employers. Preventing oral problems in the first place can:

  • Save money in unnecessary dental work
  • Improve our use of PTO or vacation time
  • Improve productivity

Here are a few suggestions to help alter specific habits that can be both detrimental or beneficial to one’s overall health.


Many of us take medications every day. One common side effect of medications is dry mouth. Dry mouth creates a whole host of other problems that can quickly spiral downward to include problems with chewing, swallowing, and even talking. Food particles can stick to tooth and root surfaces, easily causing decay and lingering bad breath. When taking medications, it is important to remember to always stay hydrated. This prevents food from staying on the teeth for a long period of time. Sipping on water, sucking on sugarless candies, or using products that stimulate saliva flow are all good options to combat dry mouth and its negative side effects.


It’s no surprise that unhealthy food and drinks can cause weight problems and may contribute to diabetes. However, many people do not consider the impact on their oral health when ingesting them. Consuming sugary items such as candy or soda not only bathe your teeth in sugar and acids which eat away at the enamel and cause decay, they also contribute to unnecessary weight gain. These items can also cause lasting sensitivity of your teeth, possibly leading to root canals and tooth loss. Your best bet is to either cut out most sugary items, especially soda, or limit the amount and eat them with your meal. Try these healthy snack choices to combat weight gain and keep your teeth decay-free and healthy.

  • Low-fat cheeses
  • Vegetables
  • Plain popcorn
  • Multi-grain crackers


While most people are aware of the dangers of sugary foods, it is rare to think about the downside of eating fruit. The abundance of vitamin C in citrus fruits is helpful for healing your tissues and gums, but can cause erosion, or a wearing-away effect on your teeth and root surfaces, leading to chronic sensitivity and pain. To remedy this, consider:

  • Adding citrus foods to your meal in marinades or substitutes for dressings
  • Using extra concentrated fluoride to protect your enamel
  • Avoiding brushing immediately after eating

Tobacco products

Tobacco and nicotine-containing products should be omitted from everyone’s habits, unless needed for medical use. Regular cigarettes, e-cigs, cigars, marijuana, and chewing tobacco all contain nicotine, which is a known carcinogen. The regular and constant use of these products can lead to lung cancer and oral cancers. Oral cancers include lip, tongue, throat, and esophageal cancer, which could ultimately require radical surgery to remove parts of your throat, tongue, bone, or teeth. It could also affect your salivary glands which are helpful in chewing, swallowing, and speech. These cancers could lead to:

  • Hospitalization
  • Time off work
  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression

The use of tobacco products results in a lingering smell on the breath, clothes, hair, or home, possibly leading to decreased personal contact, strained relationships, or even lower productivity at work.


Everybody has stress to varying degrees in their life. One way it shows up in your mouth is bruxism, which is the act of clenching or grinding your teeth. This bad habit can create a cascade of problems. You might wake up with headaches or jaw pain, that can last all day. This can affect your concentration at work, and ultimately, your productivity. Putting pressure on the teeth can result in:

  • Fractures
  • Wearing out existing restorations
  • Root canals and crowns
  • Tooth loss

It is important to determine the underlying cause of the stress with a health professional. They may suggest investing in a nightguard that can be worn during sleep which can protect teeth from unnecessary and costly expenses.

Plaque and Periodontal Disease

The connection this oral disease has on the whole body and mental health is profound, but that can easily be prevented each day with a few small steps including flossing and brushing. A few minutes in the morning, noon, and night, along with periodic professional cleanings is all it takes to maintain a healthy oral environment. By removing harmful plaque and bacteria from under your gums each day, you are protecting yourself from periodontal disease and tooth loss, and even potential heart, respiratory, pregnancy, intestinal, or diabetic issues. The younger you start and the more regular you are with professional cleanings, the healthier your whole mouth and body will be.

Understanding the link between oral health, lifestyle, and overall health can help identify, prevent and even eliminate many health issues. By doing simple tasks, you can make a huge difference in your overall health. You will be surprised by how easy and beneficial it can all be, and how much better you will feel!

Dana Berline

Dana Berliner, RHD is a native of Southern California. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a BS in dental hygiene. She has two sons, two step-sons, volunteers with Border Collies, and loves to travel. She works in both general and periodontal practices and has been blessed to be serve as a dental hygienist for over 30 years. With a passion to help everyone understand the importance of oral health in overall health and wellness, she also works with companies and their clients. For more information, please send Dana an email.