Today, as we find ourselves living through a global infectious pandemic, where we collectively face daily uncertainty, we are simultaneously seeing the emergence of a mental health crisis, causing feelings of loneliness, fear and anxiety in some, leading to increased levels of stress and depression. Never before has it been so important to find ways to take care of both our mental and physical health!
Luckily for us, the human body is a beautifully intricate interconnected system and nowhere better demonstrated than in the brain-gut connection. The explosion of scientific evidence on the microbiome has helped us piece together how this second brain, hidden in the walls of the digestive system including the mouth, digestion, mood, health and even the way individuals think.
Historically, education led us to believe that our DNA is what makes us who and what we are, but what many of us don’t realise is that DNA does not exclusively come from our own human cells. It also comes from the millions of microbes (bacteria) that live on our skin, in our mouth, gut, and pretty much everywhere in the human body. In fact, their genes outnumber ours by a factor of 150 times! Making our microbiome, including our mouth microbiome, as individual as our fingerprint!
Honouring that individuality and taking care of our microbiome, which in turn takes care of us, is something we can all do daily – from our food choices to the products we choose to use for our oral health care. The enzymes and proteins found in saliva, and those in Zendium toothpaste, help keep a healthy balance between good and bad bacteria in the mouth, working to both promote gum health and target problem-causing bad bacteria.
Although research on the connection between oral health and mental health is relatively new, studies suggest a cyclical relationship exists whereby good oral health can enhance mental and overall health, while poor oral health can exacerbate mental health issues and mental health conditions can likewise cause oral health issues.
These are some of the ways our mental health can impact upon our oral health:
Depression is associated with a higher incidence of alcohol, caffeine and tobacco abuse, which may cause tooth erosion and decay.
Depression often causes self-neglect, which often results in poor oral hygiene and consequential tooth decay.
Acids from vomiting makes patients with eating disorders more susceptible to tooth decay.
Interestingly, the connection also goes the other way, where oral health can also affect mental health:
Poor oral health affects speech, which may cause significant social anxiety.
Likewise, bad breath can exacerbate social anxiety.
Patients with some sort of mental illness are 2.8 times more likely to have lost all their teeth and have higher rates of tooth decay; this affects physical appearance, self-esteem, and self-image.
Taking good care of our mouth – teeth, gums and oral microbiome – does more than helps ensure a bright, white smile. The phrase “healthy mouth, healthy you” really is true and backed by growing scientific evidence.
Here is a list of ways you can take care of both your oral health while simultaneously taking care of your mental health:
1. Brush the last thing at night and at one other time during the day using a fluoride-based toothpaste to prevent tooth decay AND also consider using a mouthwash
The presence of fluoride in toothpaste works to attract other minerals (such as calcium) to the area thereby re-mineralising tooth enamel and preventing cavities. Maintaining our tooth enamel means we have strong, healthy teeth, giving us the confidence to smile all day long! Also consider using a mouthwash such as Zendium complete protection which helps in two ways: It cleans hard-to-brush areas in and around the gums, and re-mineralises the teeth. ‘Mouthwashes are a great way to perfect your oral care routine.
2. Look after your microbiome
Eat a diet rich in prebiotic and probiotic foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, live yoghurt, pickles, kombucha, garlic, onions, asparagus, bananas, oats and apples. Using Zendium toothpastes, which have been specifically formulated with enzymes and proteins to deliver a prebiotic benefit and boost the good bacteria in your mouth is another great way we can look after our microbiome which means we take care of our brain-gut axis and keep the bad bacteria from attacking our teeth and gums.
3. Limit sugary and acidic foods
Ultimately, sugar converts into acid in the mouth, which can then damage the enamel of your teeth. These acids are what lead to cavities. Acidic fruits, teas, and coffee can erode tooth enamel. While you don’t necessarily have to avoid such foods altogether, it doesn’t hurt to be mindful.
4. Drink more water
Water continues to be the best beverage for your overall health — including oral health. Also, as a rule of thumb, drink water after every meal. This can help wash out some of the negative effects of sticky and acidic foods and beverages in between brushes.
5. See your dentist at least twice a year
Your own everyday habits are crucial to your overall oral health. Still, even the most dutiful brushers and flossers need to see a dentist regularly. At minimum, you should see your dentist for cleanings and check-ups twice a year. Not only can a dentist remove calculus and look for cavities, but they will also be able to spot potential issues and offer treatment solutions.
6. Take care of our overall and mental health
Take deep breaths, stretch and meditate
Eat healthy, well-balanced meals
Get at least seven and a half hours of good sleep each night
Avoid excessive alcohol and drug use
Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories
By respecting our body’s symbiotic relationships and honouring these special intricate interconnections we in-turn get to support our oral and mental health and for plenty more tips and oral health advice to keep your oral microbiome in balance can be found here. Now that is worth smiling about!
Kimberly Parsons is an Australian born vegetarian chef, food writer and qualified naturopath. Her series of cookbooks titled ‘The Yoga Kitchen’ and ‘The Yoga Kitchen Plan’ teach you how to tune-in to your innate wisdom which she calls ‘body intelligence’ using traditional yogic philosophy and eating principles for long lasting, vibrant health and happiness. Once the owner of 3 healthy food yoga café’s dotted all over London, called ‘Retreat’, Kimberly now spends her time cooking on health retreats all over the world & resides in the English countryside where she cooks for many celebrity and private clients such as Lily James and Jenna Coleman, delivering her bespoke Yoga Kitchen healthy meals to her clients all over London. Connect with on her website.
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