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If you polled a few random people on the street, most of them could probably name one or two factors that might increase the risk of cavities or other oral health problems. People might know that a high-sugar diet can cause cavities, for example, or that smoking can cause oral cancer.
But if you pushed people to give answers beyond these two well-known issues, they might struggle to come up with a response. In general, most people assume that so long as they brush and floss regularly, they’re doing all they can to influence the health of their teeth.
In reality, several other factors can have a big impact on the state of your mouth. And some of them stem from surprising sources. Here are six unexpected factors that can compromise your oral health.
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Beyond sugar, there are several other foods that can compromise your oral health. This list may be surprising because most of us associate the following foods with a healthy diet. It’s tough to accept that something healthy can also put your oral health at risk. The list includes:
·Citrus fruits (e.g. lemons, limes, grapefruits, and oranges): These can wear down tooth enamel when consumed in excess
·Dried fruits: These are often sticky and can create a film that’s difficult to remove from the teeth, resulting in plaque and bacteria buildup
·Nut butters: Like dried fruits, these tend to stick to teeth and can create conditions for plaque and bacteria to thrive
·Raw nuts: Due to their hardness, these can fracture teeth if you bite down on them the wrong way
It’s true that there are plenty of nutrients to be gained from consuming fruits and nuts. The trick is to make sure you’re eating these foods only in moderation and to be scrupulous with your oral hygiene if you include these foods in your diet.
Frequent exposure to a variety of chemicals can harm tooth enamel, stain the teeth, and/or provoke tooth sensitivity. These chemicals include chlorine in pools, BPA (which is often found in canned goods and plastic containers), antibiotics, and the chemicals found in teeth whitening strips. Additionally, some medications may cause dry mouth, which is associated with an increased risk of cavities and gum disease.
Of course, some exposure to these substances may be unavoidable. The point here isn’t that you should panic every time you visit the pool this summer. Instead, the takeaway is that it’s best to moderate your exposure to these chemicals whenever possible.
More research is needed to fully understand the link between alcohol consumption and oral health. What we know so far is that some studies have found alcohol consumption can increase the risk of periodontal disease, which is a more serious form of gum disease. It may also increase the risk of oral cancer. Additionally, there’s a correlation between frequent or excessive consumption of alcohol and poor oral hygiene, which is a major risk factor for cavities and gum disease.
As if you needed another thing to be stressed about! Studies have found that feeling chronically stressed out can increase your risk of periodontal disease. This may be because stress causes inflammation in the body, which makes the mouth (and the rest of your body) more susceptible to disease.
At first glance, this might seem like a head-scratcher. How could diabetes—which most of us associate with the body’s ability to process insulin—affect your oral health? The answer come in two parts:
·Diabetes compromises the body’s blood vessels. Because blood vessels are found in the gums, this can increase the risk of gum infections. It can also weaken the gums and make the mouth more susceptible to tooth loss.
·Diabetes can increase blood sugar levels in the body. If these high glucose levels aren’t regulated, they can result in bacterial overgrowth in the mouth. This can make the mouth more susceptible to infections and cavities.
This is another one that might not make sense right away. Don’t most medical professionals advocate for physical activity (whether in the form of sports or otherwise)?
Of course, exercise is a critical part of a healthy lifestyle. The problem arises when people participate in high-contact sports without utilizing a mouthguard. This has the potential to compromise oral health because collisions or other high-impact encounters can result in lost or damaged teeth if those teeth aren’t properly protected.
The best antidote for the risk factors on this list is twofold. First, practice balance and moderation. Second, consistently utilize good oral health practices such as tooth brushing, flossing, wearing a mouthguard when appropriate, and seeing your dentist at least every six months. Together, these strategies are the best way for everyone to maintain their oral health.
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