Lifestyles are influenced by the myriad of stimuli bombarding you from popular culture, social media, friends, and family. It mirrors a person’s attitudes, values, and activities. Read more to learn how your lifestyle affects your oral health…
A lifestyle is comprised of long-term personal habits as influenced by cultural patterns around you. People are constantly fed both positive and negative influences to lifestyle and the choices they make directly impact their oral health.
How Do Lifestyle Choices Effect Health?
There have been a few studies conducted to show the direct relationship between lifestyle choices and dental health. Today’s world exposes us to a host of both negative and positive factors.
Negative factors can include smoking, poor oral hygiene due to socio-economic conditions, adverse effects of chronic medications, alcohol abuse, etc.
Positive factors encompass improved global dental education, regular and more accessible dental care, improved nutrition, etc.
Socio-economic factors also greatly influence the outcome- those in developed countries fare better than people from developing countries. Lifestyle in the latter countries is influenced by poor nutrition and dental hygiene, inaccessible dental care, etc.
In developed countries, lifestyle changes are mostly influenced by health-related factors, like drug and alcohol addiction, obesity, diabetes, smoking, heart disease, etc.
There are too many lifestyle factors that impact dental health, so we will look at a few prominent ones.
- Tobacco has been shown to be detrimental to general health through various means like lung and other types of cancers. The adverse effects of smoking have only recently been highlighted- previously popular culture, like movies in the 1930’s to 1980’s showed how cool it was to have a cigarette dangling between the lips.
Now even various governments have imposed severe restrictions on the sale and advertising of tobacco products.
According to the American Dental Association, 20% of deaths from preventable diseases can be attributed to smoking.
Regarding dental health, smoking leads to:
- Gum disease
- Various types of oral cancers
- Poor healing after trauma or dental surgery
- Stained teeth and bad breath.
- Tooth erosion
- Increased dental caries
- Tooth loss
- Inflammation in the salivary glands
Regular dental appointments are the ideal opportunity to pick up any problems caused by smoking. The dental practitioner is in the unique position to advise a smoker on the dangers of smoking and give useful pointers on how to quit smoking permanently.
With the proper motivation, support, and information, a smoker can permanently quit and lead a healthier life.
- Proper nutrition is key to the general health of a person. With the move towards more processed foods for convenience rather than health, and more sedentary lives, people have increased in weight.
Eating proper food to provide the body with the correct proportions of proteins, carbohydrates, fats and all the required vitamins and minerals will prevent many diseases like hypertension, high levels of cholesterol, diabetes, heart and kidney disease and some cancers.
The results from a 2015 study published in the Central European Journal of Immunology have shown a very clear correlation between BMI (body mass index) values and the occurrence of periodontal disease. BMI is a good indicator of body fat levels.
Regarding oral health, studies conducted in the US have found that high BMI values correspond with poor oral hygiene -the general clinical condition of gums and teeth is less than optimal.
Corresponding Japanese studies have shown that higher BMI values correlate with increased risk of periodontitis. Periodontitis is a disease that leads to progressive damage to oral tissues like the gingival connective tissue, periodontium, and alveolar bone.
In obese patients, the immune system is not functioning optimally. Therefore, the bacteria causing plaque formation and periodontitis can proliferate unchecked.
Obese people often have high cholesterol. This higher than normal levels of lipids in the bloodstream can lead to a narrowing of blood vessels in the periodontium. Decreased blood flow in periodontal vessels encourages the progress of periodontal disease.
Another complication of increasing obesity numbers is type 2 diabetes. Diabetes increases the risk of gingivitis. High levels of cytokines, which produce the body’s inflammatory response, are produced by the excess adipose tissue (body fat). This increased inflammatory response leads to gingivitis.
Obese people are more disposed to poor nutrition, which makes them more susceptible to dental caries. Increased plaque production, low immune system, and poor oral hygiene make it the perfect environment for cavities to form.
Once again, the dentist is able to screen obese patients for the various oral conditions they are most susceptible to and educate them on the health risks of a high BMI.
- Modern lifestyles choices have brought with them increased stress levels resulting in an increase in various psychological problems.
Some people turn to addictive substances like painkillers, alcohol, and controlled drugs to numb the emotional pain.
Shocking global estimations show that between 149 and 272 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 have used illegal substances at least once during a single year.
Apart from the direct physical and mental consequences such as liver damage, breathing problems, depression, etc, there are effects on oral health, as well.
Direct exposure to harmful substances on the oral mucosa, when smoking or ingesting the drugs, can permanently change the normal physiology of the mouth.
For example, opiate abusers suffer from tooth loss and increased tooth decay. Salivary glands don’t function normally leading to dry mouth, mucosal infections, burning sensation in the mouth, difficulty eating and periodontal disease. These patients also show higher than normal levels of yeast infections and jaw clenching.
Cannabis abuse is often associated with increased risk of oral cancer, xerostomia (dry mouth) and periodontal disease. The lifestyle of the cannabis abuser rather than the cannabis itself makes the person prone to tooth cavities.
Stimulant abuse includes amphetamines, methamphetamines, cocaine, and crack-cocaine. Depending on how the stimulant is used, various areas of the oral mucosa can be affected, e.g. oral cocaine use can cause mucosal lesions, rubbing cocaine onto the gums can cause gum recession, dental erosion may occur due to the change in salivary pH, smoking crack cocaine can cause mucosal burns and sores in the mouth- this increases the risk of HIV oral transmission.
Methamphetamine abusers often adopt a lifestyle that contributes to numerous dental cavities, such as poor oral hygiene, increased sugar ingestion, decreased saliva production, jaw clenching, etc.
These are only a handful of substances that are being abused and their effects outlined on overall oral health. Dental practitioners can often detect people with substance abuse issues and refer them for further professional help.
Fatigue & Insomnia
- Increased stress levels due to lifestyle choices have impacted the quantity and quality of sleep people have. Insomnia can lead to daytime drowsiness, poor work performance, and low energy levels, which over time can lead to poor self-esteem and possible depression.
Those suffering from depression and fatigue often start neglecting basic self-care like brushing their teeth regularly. Regular poor oral hygiene is directly linked to tooth cavities and other periodontal complications.
A 2017 study conducted with a range of dental students in India showed that those with poor dental health at the end of the study had experienced more insomnia and fatigue during the study. Participants who were able to maintain good oral hygiene reported having good sleep, more physical energy and performed better academically.
Regular sleep deprivation triggers the body’s inflammatory processes causing gingivitis that can progress into more serious periodontitis.
The merits of resting regularly and sleeping sufficiently cannot be overstated. People often overlook this simple physiological need because it may appear unproductive. However, it is at this crucial resting time that the brain and body are able to regenerate and heal.
Striking the balance by making the correct lifestyle choices in today’s hectic world can save your general health and more specifically your dental health. You can enjoy healthy oral health to last you a lifetime.