The Mouth-Health Connection

Your mouth gives all sorts of clues about your health, especially when it comes to the teeth and surrounding structures. Let’s do a quick inspection of the elements of your mouth.Your jawbone (the mandible): The human jaw’s a powerful clamp. It can exert 50 to 250 pounds per square inch of pressure when you chew. It’s also efficient.The jaw’s the only joint that purposely dislocates itself while in motion. It uses two points of attachment—one lever point in the back of the jaw, and two inches in the front. Each time you chew, your jaw dislocates and relocates. This allows you to crush food for swallowing and digesting.The jaw muscles cab be a source of pain. If you chew too much or unknowingly clench during stressful times, these muscles can spasm. Stress-induced grinding can cause a slight misalignment of the jaw. This can lead to jaw, eye or neck pain, and a horrible headache. And, if you lose your teeth, your jawbone will naturally erode away as well. The purpose of the jawbone is to support teeth. Complicated sets of muscles, ligaments and skin hold your jaw in place.Your gums: If you don’t think your gums are important, you’ll be amazed by some of the facts. The amount of tissue involved in a severe gum disease is about the same as the skin surface on the back of your hand. When plaque wedges between your teeth into your gums, it triggers inflammation that leads to periodontal disease. This occurs when the disease progresses to the ligaments and bones around the teeth.Gingivitis is simply a gum infection. Regular flossing and checkups rid you of plaque and help save your teeth. If you sleep with your mouth open, this can dry your gums and enamel to create gingivitis and possible bone decay.WATCH VIDEO: How Does Plaque Form?The same bacteria that cause periodontal disease can also trigger the immune response that causes inflammation and artery hardening. That plaque contains bacteria, proteins, sugars, fats, calcium and phosphorous. (Some bacteria’s needed to keep fungus in check and digest food.) This tough stuff sticks to your teeth and causes gingivitis. This is an even better indicator of heart disease than cholesterol levels!Your teeth: Wiggle your jaw around. Your top teeth are fixed to your skull, and your lower jaw has the flexibility to move side-to-side and front-to-back. If the bottom and top are misaligned, you end up wearing down your teeth. Teeth grinders show less of their teeth when they smile, which makes them appear older and less attractive.WATCH VIDEO: What Causes Cavities and Abcesses?

Mouth-Health Connection

Grinding causes premature aging—the wearing down of the front teeth stops you from working your jaw efficiently. This causes your back teeth to wear down as well. Grinding can also injure your jawbone joint, the TMJ (temporomandibular joint).QUIZ: Are You Feeling Stressed?If you’re a grinder, you’ll want early detection so that your bite can be analyzed. You can then be fitted for a night-guard mouthpiece, which will prevent you from grinding while you sleep. If left untreated, your teeth can eventually break and split from your gums. Some can be saved if the break and split isn’t severe. Severely worn teeth may have to be replaced, and can cost up to $2,000 per tooth.As far as tooth decay, you’re more susceptible to it if your mother was unhealthy during pregnancy or you had poor health as a child.Major food sources that cause decay include carbonated drinks, sugary gum and mints. These dissolve enamel and bathe our teeth in bacteria. Avoid sticky foods and candies (like raisins and caramel, unless you brush after eating them).Have white spots on your teeth? This can be a sign of decalcification, enamel breakdown and too much fluoride. You can get this fluoride from drinking water. Also, children often swallow a lot of toothpaste, which can make the discoloration worse.

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