Archives

Guru Kate: Does brushing your teeth do more than prevent cavities?

Proper dental hygiene is both necessary for your social career and very necessary for the health of your teeth. Regardless of your stance in the fluorinated versus unfluorinated argument, the physical act of brushing teeth removes plaque and can help break down tartar.

Dental plaque is the secretion left by pesky bacteria festering inside the human mouth. Try not to think about that for too long, because you will always have bacteria inside your mouth no matter how much you swish with mouthwash.

In fact, some bacteria in your mouth belong there and are competitively helpful to charge out the bad bacteria. However, no method of dental hygiene can truly differentiate between these, so when you brush, you aim to eliminate both kinds of bacteria equally — and that’s OK.

Multiple studies have shown that those who brushed, flossed and had more consistent dental hygiene had lower C-reactive protein levels and lower levels of other inflammation biomarkers (signals for biological processes). Basically, those who reported higher levels of hygiene had fewer signs of inflammation.

While this link needs to be further explored in the science world, there are more concrete connections. For example, many factors play a role in the development of cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.

One of those factors is dental hygiene.

As mentioned before, dental hygiene primarily targets bacteria. Left to their own devices, bacteria wriggle in and around teeth and can make their way to the bloodstream. These bacteria can lead to atherogenesis.

For once, this word is actually as scary as it sounds. It’s the deterioration of the walls of arteries, and deposits of fatty material, which creates plaque in the arteries. These are two big factors that play into heart disease.

The link is neither definitive nor causal, but recent studies unanimously suggest a strong correlation.

Taking two minutes out of your morning and night routine to polish those pearly whites can’t hurt. Some side effects may include: a brighter smile, more positive dental visits, better breath and less pain. If you don’t already brush your teeth morning and night, consider switching for more than just your social status.

Studies have linked it to less whole-body pain (via lower levels of cycling inflammation biomarkers) and lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States. It’s pretty incredible that something as small as brushing your teeth daily can help stave off this heart-wrenching disease.

Written by Kate Lindsley

Kate Lindsley is the columnist for Guru Kate. She is currently a Junior in her Dietetics program and has been writing for TNL since January of 2011. Her hobbies include cooking, knitting and running with friends. She also really enjoys questions submitted to Guru Kate, and may even answer them in print!