The Link Between Exercise and Good Oral Health

By Kate Harveston – November 8, 2019

Your smile tells the world, “I’m happy to see you!” It speaks volumes about your overall well-being.

When researchers discovered the link between periodontal disease, gingivitis and other health woes, given advice included a healthy diet and regular check-ups. Today, science suggests there’s another tool in your arsenal — exercise.

What Researchers Know About Oral Health
Researchers examined former and non-smokers. Some participated in physical activity, while others led a sedentary lifestyle. Those who exercised regularly and gave up smoking were 74 percent less likely to contract periodontal disease — gum disease — than those rarely hit the gym. Active people who’ve never smoked are 54 percent less likely to experience infection.

A 2010 study found a link between exercise and decreased gum disease risk. Researchers looked at body mass index (BMI) and body fat. They also considered VO2 max, a measure of oxygen consumption. Those with low BMI and high activity levels had the lowest rate of disease.

Why Does Exercise Lower Your Risk? 
The correlation between exercise and oral disease leaves an important question unanswered — why? First, however, you’ll need to understand how gum disease develops.

Your periodontium consists of teeth and their supporting structures. These structures include the gums — called the gingivae — and the sulcus, the small pocket that holds your teeth in place.

Gingivitis is a mild inflammation of the gums. In Canada, gingivitis affects 30 percent of adults ages 20 to 70. It occurs when sticky plaque builds up in the sulcus. When left untreated, this condition can progress to periodontal disease, an infection.

Bacteria begin to loosen your gums. You may lose teeth. Germs enter the bloodstream through breaks in the gingivae and cause inflammation throughout the body. Periodontitis is a pervasive issue, affecting roughly 50 percent of Americans and 70 percent of Canadians.

A Boost in Immune Function
Exercise in moderate doses boosts immune function. This phenomenon may explain why those who work out have lower rates of gum disease. It’s the body’s natural defense to fight off plaque-causing bacteria.

In one study, researchers measured the effect of the flu virus on mice. Only 12 percent of the jogging mice passed away, compared to more than half of the sedentary group. Surprisingly, 70 percent of the mice that exercised too much — they ran for several hours — also perished.

When you increase respiration, your lungs push harmful bacteria out of your body at faster rates. Working out spurs your white T-cells to attack germs more vigorously. Plus, when you break a sweat, you raise your body temperature and kill bugs.

An Increase in Saliva Production
Saliva is your first line of defense against oral bacteria. This liquid bathes your teeth and washes away plaque and bacteria. Exercise increases the rate of salivary production, helping your mouth stay naturally clean.

Working out makes you thirsty, meaning you drink more water. When you quench your thirst, you help your mouth pump up moisture production.

A Wealth of Healthy Habits 
Those who stay active may still like to indulge in a greasy hamburger or smokey cigar. On average, though, people who engage in routine exercise take better care of their health. They tend to opt for fresh, nourishing foods, and practice proper hygiene.

Healthy habits are key to excellent oral health. In the U.S., only 30 percent of adults floss their teeth each day. Hitting the gym won’t force you to floss. However, one healthy habit will encourage you to implement another.

An Aid for Smokers to Quit
Smoking increases the risk of developing periodontal disease. The habit dries up saliva and allows oral bacteria to flourish. Kicking the butts in the butt can improve your dental hygiene.

People who beat the habit typically need new ways to fill up their time. Exercise helps those struggling to quit by replacing an unhealthy habit with a healthy one. Working out fights cigarette cravings and withdrawal symptoms for up to 50 minutes post-sweat.

A Holistic Approach to Health
Western medicine is unique in treating diseases in isolation. Eastern practitioners, on the other hand, focus on the entire patient. Research into plant-based cancer treatments reveals many diseases have a multifaceted etiology, or set of causes. Doctors can develop effective treatments with a combination of protocols.

You can achieve better health by caring for your whole self. Don’t merely pop a pill or schedule a tooth cleaning. Instead, consider your entire well-being. Implement regular exercise and nutritious meals into your routine. When you make healthy choices, you create a balanced internal environment where good bacteria flourish.

Do You Want Better Teeth? Hit the Gym! 
If you want a beautiful smile, it’s time to hit the gym. Exercise offers a host of benefits, including reduced risk of oral disease. What are you waiting for? Sign up for a membership, invest in a treadmill or pop in the Pilates video.

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